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A charged atmosphere

Advanced weather tech showcased at annual gathering of weather scientists 

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi NPP satellite captured the data for a mosaic of Katia, Irma, and Jose as they appeared in the early hours of Sept. 8, 2017.

Raytheon is bringing its diverse portfolio of environmental technologies to the 98th annual American Meteorological Society meeting in Austin, Texas, on January 7-11.  The gathering is the world’s largest for the weather, water and climate community.

The company's weather tools and technologies range from highly sophisticated space sensors currently on orbit to the applications that drive weather warnings straight to users’ phones. Read more about them below:

A Delta II rocket carrying a NASA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite was successfully launched from Space Launch Complex-2, Nov. 18, at 1:47 a.m. PST, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

We have liftoff!

On Nov. 18, 2017, NASA launched NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System-1 into space, where it joined its sister satellite, Suomi-NPP, in a sun-synchronous polar orbit. The two satellites deliver some of the most-accurate, high-fidelity, near-real-time weather data in the world.

The launch was a giant leap forward for NOAA’s long-range forecasting (up to seven days out), as nearly 85 percent of the data flowing into American weather forecast models comes from polar orbiters like JPSS-1 and S-NPP.

The KSAT site, where SG4 and SG22 are located, resides on top of a mountain plateau in Svalbard, Norway. One of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas, it lies 78 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. (Photo courtesy of Reuben Wu)

Built for speed

In time to support the launch of JPSS-1, Raytheon's next-generation Common Ground System was upgraded to support a multi-mission capability, while delivering observations to NOAA's National Weather Service almost 50 percent faster than before.

Processing more than 11 terabytes of weather information every day, JPSS CGS is a robust global system of ground antennas and high-performance computers. It provides observations from outer space to meteorologists, scientists and emergency officials more quickly and reliably than ever before.

“Now that JPSS-1 is on orbit, we’re delivering more observations twice as fast as before,” said Mark Sargent, Raytheon’s Joint Polar Satellite System program director.

After an incredibly cold workout in the thermal vacuum chamber, Raytheon’s third VIIRS instrument is ready for the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space. (Photo courtesy of Reuben Wu)

For Day and Night

Raytheon’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS, is mission-critical hardware for both of America’s polar satellites, driving weather forecast precision by delivering an unprecedented level of detail.

Collecting imagery in 22 bands of light—from visible to infrared— VIIRS is the only satellite sensor in the world that can track weather both day and night. This allows scientists to observe emerging weather and climate patterns in much more detail than in the past.

“From 500 miles up in space, VIIRS is changing the way we see Earth, and its value goes well beyond weather forecasting,” said Robert Curbeam, director of Civil Space programs for Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems business. 

The National Weather Services' Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System processes storm data in Lubbock, Texas.

Next-Generation Weather Forecasting

In September, Raytheon won a $269 million contract to continue providing services, hardware, software, communications and improvements for the National Weather Service's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System program.

Used by more than 140 NWS field offices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it ingests and analyzes weather data and allows meteorologists to create useful visualizations for time-sensitive watches and warnings.

“AWIPS is in many ways the backbone of American forecasting,” said Andre Tarro, Raytheon’s AWIPS program director. “It’s being used daily to help create a more weather-ready nation.”

When the FAA implements the NexGen Weather Processor, there will be a lot fewer empty gates at airports.

Weather or Not to Fly

FAA air traffic flow management specialists and airline operators currently use a hodgepodge of weather systems that ingest data from varying inputs. As such, weather products from these different systems are often inconsistent and provide disparate pictures to users across the National Airspace System. Raytheon's NextGen Weather Processor will provide one consistent weather picture that will be used by the FAA air traffic control and the airlines as they plan adverse weather mitigations.

The system ingests petabytes of data every hour from weather radars, environmental satellites, lightning, meteorological observations from surface stations and aircraft and government forecast models, feeding that information through sophisticated algorithms that churn out consistent, aviation-specific weather information “at a glance.”

“With NWP, the FAA and the airlines will have better information when weather might hit, avoiding delays and a lot of the full-scale cancellations,” said Derek Watulak, Raytheon’s NWP program manager.

A traditional Doppler radar takes four to six minutes to scan the sky. AESA radar takes seconds.

During a Storm, Seconds Count

In severe weather, it takes Doppler radar about four to six minutes to scan the entire atmosphere. In contrast, AESA radar is a stationary panel with no moving parts. It sends out multiple beams simultaneously, eliminating the need to tilt the antennas, decreasing the time between scans of storms. Operators can steer its beams electronically to concentrate on areas of interest, resulting in more data about the worst parts of the storm.

By adding AESA radar, the National Weather Service could go from “warn on” detection to “warn on” forecasting.“ Instead of telling folks in the path of a storm to take cover immediately as a tornado arrives, forecasters could give warnings in time for people to seek shelter as the tornado is heading their way.

Last Updated: 01/12/2018

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