NOAA 99-060
Contact: Pat Viets


A $98 million contract has been awarded to ITT Industries, ITT Aerospace/Communications Division of Ft. Wayne, Ind. to develop an advanced weather satellite instrument that will significantly improve weather forecasting and climate prediction as part of a Clinton/Gore Administration program to make government less costly, more efficient and more responsive to public needs, Commerce Secretary William M. Daley announced.

Daley said the new instruments are part of the Administration's National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) program, which will save the taxpayers about $1.8 billion over its lifetime after it is in operation sometime over the next decade. The savings will accrue as a result of the administration's initiative to combine the nation's military and civilian environmental satellite programs into one, Daley said.

These satellite instruments will improve short-term weather forecasts and long-term climate prediction," Daley said. "The NPOESS program marks the most significant change in U.S. operational remote sensing since the launch of the first weather satellite in 1960," he said, adding that the program heralds a "new unified path for the United States in the development, acquisition, management and operation of environmental satellites."

The contract is for a Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), an advanced high-spectral-resolution infrared sounder to be flown aboard the nation's environmental satellites of the future. This contract will be followed by others next year for development of a series of satellite instruments that will improve short-term weather forecasts and long-term climate prediction, Daley said. Earlier this year, a contract was awarded to Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation of Boulder, Colo., for the development of an Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite instrument to improve the accuracy of Earth's ozone measurements.

The contract was awarded August 30 by the tri-agency Integrated Program Office, which consists of components of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The contract, for the design and fabrication of the new sounder, totals approximately $98 million, including options. The contract will ultimately produce four CrIS units that will use advanced infrared sounding technologies at high spectral resolution to accurately measure the vertical distribution of temperature, moisture and pressure in the atmosphere. The more accurate CrIS measurements are expected to yield significant improvements in the skill of numerical weather prediction models.

The first CrIS unit will be flown on the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) mission, a joint effort between the NPOESS Integrated Program Office and NASA. The NPP mission will provide an early opportunity, beginning in late 2005, to test and evaluate CrIS prior to the launch of the first operational NPOESS spacecraft, as well as demonstrate the utility of the improved atmospheric temperature, moisture and pressure data in short-term weather nowcasting and forecasting. Of equal importance, NPP will ensure continuity of advanced atmospheric infrared sounding data by "bridging" between the NASA Earth Observing System research missions early in the next decade and the NPOESS operational missions that will begin late in the next decade. The remaining three CrIS units will be flown on the operational NPOESS spacecraft.

The NPOESS program represents a major step toward the merger of military and civilian operational meteorological satellites into a single, national system. Once operational in the next decade, the NPOESS will satisfy both civil and national security requirements for space-based, remotely sensed environmental data.

"With the award of the CrIS and OMPS contracts, the NPOESS program is well along the path to creating a high performance, integrated polar satellite system that will cost less, be more responsive to user demands, and deliver more capability than those in use today," said Captain Craig Nelson, NOAA Corps, who is executive director of the Integrated Program Office.

The NPOESS sensor suites will deliver higher resolution and more accurate atmospheric, oceanographic, terrestrial and solar-geophysical data to support improved accuracy in short-term weather forecasts and warnings and severe storm warnings, as well as serve the data continuity requirements of the climate community for improved climate prediction and assessment.

The 1994 Presidential Decision Directive that established the NPOESS Integrated Program Office charged NOAA with overall responsibility for the converged system, as well as satellite operations and interactions with the civil and international user communities. The U.S. Air Force has the lead agency responsibility for major systems acquisitions, including launch support. NASA has primary responsibility for facilitating the development and incorporation of new cost-effective technologies into the converged system. Representatives from all three agencies participated in the NPOESS CrIS source selection, which was held in Silver Spring, Md.