Friday, May 9, 2008

Key sensor restored to satellite

NOAA: A sensor considered critical in monitoring global climate will be restored to the first satellite scheduled to fly in the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) top officials from NOAA, NASA, and the Air Force said yesterday.

At a meeting of the tri-agency NPOESS Executive Committee (EXCOM), the members agreed to restore the Total Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS), which measures the total amount of solar energy coming into the Earth’s atmosphere, a fundamental element in understanding climate change. The sensor had been removed during the 2006 restructuring of the NPOESS program.

Yesterday’s decision follows a January 2008 agreement to place another climate sensor — the Clouds and Earth Radiant Energy System (CERES) — on the NPOESS Preparatory Project, the precursor mission for NPOESS. The CERES will complement the TSIS measurements by shedding light on how clouds influence the Earth’s energy balance and the role they play in regulating climate.

“We need these sensors to help us better differentiate between the natural and human causes of climate change, and monitor the long-term energy shifts tied to climate change,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

The EXCOM decision builds on the Administration’s commitment to restore climate sensors that had been removed from NPOESS. In April 2007, NOAA and NASA jointly announced they would restore the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) Limb, a critical instrument for measuring the vertical distribution of ozone, to NPP….

An artist's conception of the NPOESS satellite from NOAA. It's amazing how NOAA's painters can hold a brush in a spacesuit, not to mention working with special paint that can withstand the rigors of the exosphere.

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