THE 'SECRET SAUCE' SENSOR
Launched in 2011, the Suomi-NPP satellite was the first into space with Raytheon Technologies’ Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite of sensors. VIIRS, which is mission-critical hardware for NOAA-20 as well, provides an unprecedented level of detail and has already helped to make weather forecasts more precise.
“We have a hot production line for VIIRS,” said Wallis Laughrey, vice president of Space Systems for Raytheon Intelligence & Space, a Raytheon Technologies business. “Our third VIIRS instrument slated for JPSS-2 … is now ready to go when our customer is ready.”
The only satellite sensor in the world that can track weather both day and night, it collects imagery in 22 bands of light—from visible to infrared—allowing scientists to observe emerging weather and climate patterns in unprecedented detail, a capability that’s particularly important to military operations.
When it comes to forecasting, successful missions translate to every industry.
When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston, Texas, in August 2017, it was the costliest storm in U.S. history. Damage estimates ran in the hundreds of billions of dollars. One of the major issues: the city’s overall floodplain design.
“We don’t often think about the importance of weather data when it comes to updating an aging infrastructure, but we should,” said Mike Fox, former lead for civil space and weather programs. “While infrastructure bolsters safety and growing economies, extreme weather tests it to its very limits.”
Hurricanes, wildfires, mudslides, blizzards and volcanic eruptions are visible from space.
“We have access to this incredible, one-of-a-kind weather data,” said Fox. “We should use it in our city planning to reduce the chances of neighborhoods being inundated with floodwater.”
Or wildfires. In October 2017, more than 100,000 acres in California were consumed by fire, destroying countless homes and killing nearly a dozen people. The unfolding catastrophe was monitored from space, directly informing evacuation and rescue efforts.
“Every day, thousands of decisions…depend on accurate weather forecasting,” said Matt Gilligan, RI&S vice president of Navigation and Environmental Solutions. “Weather intelligence is actionable. It can literally save lives.”