Technology Today

2011 Issue 2

Raytheon's Common Ground System –
Providing Management, Control and Data Processing for the Joint Polar Satellite System

The reliability of weather forecasting that we have become dependent upon today is possible because of data inputs to the National Weather Service forecasting models from the U.S. polar-orbiting environmental satellites. Greater than 98 percent of the inputs to the computers that forecast the world's weather come from satellites.

NASA, under direction from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is working to maintain and enhance our nation's weather prediction capability by developing the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). Raytheon plays a crucial role in the JPSS program, serving as the developer and operator of the Common Ground System (CGS) that receives and processes the science data and operates the satellites on behalf of NOAA.

JPSS will replace the current national polar-orbiting environmental satellite systems: NOAA's Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite (POES), the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, and NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS). All will be retired within this decade. Figure 1 compares JPSS and heritage system capabilities.

Figure 1

National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project

As a precursor to JPSS, NASA launched the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) mission on Oct. 28, 2011. NPP reduces risk by providing an opportunity to exercise and validate new instruments and processing algorithms, and by demonstrating and validating aspects of the JPSS command, control, communications and ground processing capabilities prior to launching the first JPSS spacecraft, expected in 2016. NPP also provides NASA with continuing measurements of global change parameters after EOS missions, Terra and Aqua, reach end-of-life. Furthermore, NPP has taken on more of an operational role as the need to replace aging legacy on-orbit polar environmental sensing capabilities and missions becomes more urgent.

Figure 2
Joint Polar Satellite System

JPSS will carry improved imaging and sounding sensors, increasing NOAA and DoD capabilities to monitor global environmental conditions and collect and disseminate data related to the weather, atmosphere, oceans, land and the near-space environment shown in Figure 2. The polar orbiters are able to monitor the entire planet and provide data for long-range weather and climate forecasts.

Data and imagery obtained from JPSS will increase the timeliness and accuracy of public warnings and forecasts of climate and weather events, thus reducing the potential loss of human life and property, and minimizing the social and economic impact.

Raytheon's JPSS Common Ground System (CGS)

The CGS offers a single common ground system to support polar-orbiting environmental monitoring satellite missions for both the U.S. and its international partners. Raytheon is responsible for the full JPSS CGS capability, from design and development through operations and sustainment.

The CGS supplies command and control services through its Mission Management Center at Suitland, Md., and its command facility on Svalbard, Norway. Data are received and transported through its global Distributed Receptor Network (DRN). Mission data, supplied through the DRN to four government processing facilities, are converted into environmental products by CGS's high-end science data processing systems.

Raytheon's system is operation-ready and provides a flexible architecture that can quickly adapt to evolving mission needs. It consists of globally-dispersed components (Figure 3) that are fully integrated with each other to provide the lowest-latency data delivery timelines in polar-orbiting satellite history (six times reduction, from 180 minutes reduced to less than 30 minutes).

Additionally, the Raytheon-developed CGS provides:

  • Enterprise management to ensure high system and data availability.
  • Extensive command and control system operational legacy for proven reliability.
  • Flexible data-delivery tailored to the user.

Figure 3

As a primary component of Raytheon's CGS Command, Control and Communications System (C3S), the unique ground DRN antenna architecture facilitates frequent JPSS data downlinks to maximize contact duration at low cost and low downlink bandwidth. The DRN consists of 15 globally distributed receive-only antennas which take JPSS downlinked stored mission data and route it back to U.S. environmental data-processing centers in near-real time (Figure 4). This simple but effective DRN architecture provides unprecedented low data latency (95 percent of data in less than 30 minutes from sensing on orbit to processed data for users).

The Raytheon CGS for NPP is deployed and ready to support the operational mission of the NPP satellite for worldwide environmental data. In the future, CGS will serve as a common ground station for the JPSS and the Defense Weather Satellite System satellite programs. Planned upgrades in support of these programs include:

  • Service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web services.
  • Highly-virtualized IT infrastructure, providing private cloud architecture.
  • Advanced network protocols.
Figure 4

Raytheon's enterprise C3S is scalable and expandable to easily accommodate multiple, current and future environmental satellite missions. Its mission has already been expanded to include data retrieval and routing for European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) meteorological operational satellites, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Global Change Observation Mission (GCOM) and the U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). The CGS could potentially serve as the gateway for much of the world's space-based weather information.

Raytheon brings more than four decades of high-availability, reliable, precision-based, and command and control systems experience to JPSS CGS at significantly reduced system operating costs by providing up-to-date and easily-upgradable technologies.

Mike Jamilkowski,
Kerry Grant, David C. Smith

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