First Image and First Orbits

GOES-17 image of Earth’s Western Hemisphere acquired on May 20, 2018, using the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). Image courtesy of NOAA/NASA.

Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a fantastic shot of the Earth, shown on the left, from the GOES-17 satellite. The satellite was launched on the 1st March 2018 and this is the first image from its Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI).

The ABI is a multi-channel passive imaging radiometer with 16 spectral bands, which has spatial resolutions of between 0.5 km and 2.0 km. It can take an image of the entire Western Hemisphere every 15 minutes, with more detailed images every 60 seconds. Its main focus will be collecting data for weather, oceans, land, climate and hazard applications.

The image above was produced despite the detection of a fault with the cooling system during the pre-operational calibration and validation testing phase. The system did not start properly, which has meant that it’s not possible to cool the infra-red detectors meaning that 13 of 16 spectral bands are not operating correctly. The fault is currently being investigated with solutions and options being identified.

The released image is of the Earth’s Western Hemisphere on May 20, 2018 and was created using the red, blue, and a near-infrared band.

Although, not technically a first orbit, NOAA also announced last week that its Joint Polar Satellite System satellite (JPSS-1), launched on the 18 November 2017, has successfully completed six months of testing and has become operational. The satellite, called NOAA-20 until it was in orbit, is a clone of the existing Suomi-NPP mission and joins it in a polar orbit. It will provide data to improve the accuracy of weather forecasts from the five instruments it carries:-

  • Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) is a cross-track microwave sounder that provides atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles.
  • Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) measures the solar energy reflected by Earth and the role of clouds play in this.
  • Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS) instrument provide atmospheric temperature and moisture observations.
  • Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) tracks the health of the ozone layer and measures the concentration of ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument collects visible and infrared imagery and global observations of the land, atmosphere, cryosphere and oceans including night-time imagery. It is a dataset we use regularly.

JPSS-1 is the first in a four satellite constellation with JPSS-2 scheduled for launch in 2021, JPSS-3 in 2023, and JPSS-4 in 2026.

The second first orbit this week come from China, who launched their latest Earth Observation (EO) satellite, Gaofen-6, on the 2nd June from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. Gaofen-6 is part of the China High-Resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS).

It’s an optical mission launched into a sun-synchronous orbit and is equipped with a multi-spectral camera with 8 m spatial resolution and a panchromatic camera with 2 m resolution; in addition there is also a multispectral medium-resolution and wide-view camera with 16 m resolution. The latter camera has an 800 km swath width, whilst the other two have a 90 km swaths. Gaofen-6 is reported as being mainly focused on agricultural and disaster monitoring and can observe chlorophyll and other factors to help develop yields of crops such as corn, rice, soybeans, cotton and peanuts.

Also on the launch was Luojia-1, a small EO cubesat built by the Wuhan University which is being used as a prototype for a future constellation. Details are limited, but it is reported to be a multi-angle imaging radar satellite with 100 m spatial resolution.

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