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NOAA’s JPSS-2 Satellite Prepares for Launch

September 30, 2022

On August 19, the JPSS-2 satellite arrived by transport truck to the Vandenberg Space Force Base in Lompoc, Calif., where it will spend its final weeks on Earth before its planned November 1 launch. 

Once launched, the satellite, like its predecessors Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20, will orbit the Earth from the North pole to South pole, sending back data that is critical to the weather forecasts.  When you open the weather app on your smartphone, you’ll be using JPSS-2 data. 

It will capture images and take measurements that help us plan for severe weather, such as hurricanes, floods and snowstorms. It will measure our ocean and atmosphere, map and monitor wildfires and volcanoes and tell us about the things that fill our air, like dust and smoke. It will provide important climate data on ozone and atmospheric temperature. Because of its wide swath, it will observe every spot on Earth at least twice a day. 

JPSS-2 arrived at Vandenberg from the Northrop Grumman facility in Gilbert, Arizona, where its four instruments were integrated into the spacecraft. The satellite also went through its final critical testing there. This included thermal vacuum testing, which was completed in early June, the installation and deployment of its solar array and its pre-ship review, which occurred in late July and early August.  

Flight hardware for the rocket that will launch JPSS-2 has also arrived at Vandenberg for processing ahead of launch. The boattail and interstage adapter for the Atlas V rocket arrived on July 28 and the payload fairings arrived on Aug. 8. 

A team of technicians and engineers are rotating through to put the satellite through its final preparations at the base’s Astrotech Space Operations Facility, said Damone Scott, the integration and test manager for JPSS-2.

This includes performance testing,  instrument cleaning, electrical testing and final inspections. Protective covers and non-flight hardware will be removed and batteries will be charged. The satellite will be fueled, mounted onto launch vehicle payload attachments and then encapsulated inside the fairing. 

“Fueling is one of the last things that we’ll do, because you don’t want to work around a fueled spacecraft,” said JPSS Flight Project Manager André Dress.

The satellite will be mounted above NASA’s Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID,) which is flying on the same rocket as a secondary payload.  LOFTID is a technology demonstration that will test the ability to land in thinner atmospheres, such as Mars.  

 If all goes as planned, in mid-October, JPSS-2 and LOFTID will be rolled out to the launch pad and hoisted onto the launch vehicle.  Launch is targeted for November 1 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket.