Posted by Courtney E. Howard
GREENBELT, Md., 22 Nov. 2011. The Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) from Raytheon Company (NYSE:RTN) onboard the NASA NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft has acquired its first image—marking a historic event. The high-resolution visible spectrum image shows a broad swath of Eastern North America from Canada’s Hudson Bay past Florida to the northern coast of Venezuela in sharp detail. VIIRS, a scanning radiometer, collects visible and infrared imagery as well as radiometric measurements of the land, atmosphere, cryosphere, and oceans. The NOAA Satellite Operations Facility (NSOF) in Suitland, Md., processed the VIIRS data.
The VIIRS is one of five instruments onboard the NPP Earth-observing satellite launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Oct. 28. NPP reached its final orbit at an altitude of 512 miles (824 kilometers), powered on all instruments, and is traveling around the Earth at 16,640 miles an hour (eight kilometers per second).
"This image is a next step forward in the success of VIIRS and the NPP mission," says James Gleason, NPP project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
VIIRS will collect radiometric imagery in visible and infrared wavelengths of the Earth's land, atmosphere, and oceans. By far the largest instrument onboard NPP, VIIRS weighs in at roughly 556 pounds (252 kilograms). Its data, collected from 22 channels across the electromagnetic spectrum, is used to observe the Earth's surface including fires, ice, ocean color, vegetation, clouds, and land and sea surface temperatures.
"VIIRS heralds a brightening future for continuing these essential measurements of our environment and climate," explains Diane Wickland, NPP program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington. All five instruments will be up and running by mid-December and NPP will begin 2012 by sending down complete data, she adds.
"The task now for the science community is to evaluate VIIRS performance and determine the accuracy of its data products," says Chris Justice a professor of geography at the University of Maryland, College Park, who will be using VIIRS data in his research.
"The VIIRS visible imager is performing excellently and we expect the data will be of great value to the weather and climate monitoring communities," says Bill Hart, vice president of Space Systems for Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems business. "We look forward to continued high-quality imagery and expect other facets of the instrument to check out equally well."