Roamy here. Leave it to NASA to put an acronym in an acronym. The NPP spacecraft is scheduled to liftoff from Vandenberg AFB early Friday morning. NPP stands for NPOESS Preparatory Project; NPOESS stands for National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System. NPOESS was to be the next generation of polar-orbiting, sun-synchronous weather satellites. Somehow I missed when the Obama administration cancelled it and ordered NOAA and DoD to develop separate systems. Both NOAA and DoD kept the original contractor, Northrup Grumman involved in the new satellites rather than pay the $84 million in contract termination fees. The new satellite system for NOAA is called Joint Polar Satellite System, where joint refers to NASA and NOAA, and seems to be more engineered to study climate change and monitor ozone, cloud formation, and temperature profiles. The new satellite system for DoD is the Defense Weather Satellite System.
NPP is a testbed for some of the new technology and builds on what we’ve learned from the DMSP, NOAA, and GOES weather satellites.
The launch vehicle is a Delta II, and this may be the last launch for the venerable system. Five Delta II rockets have been built but have not been publicly assigned a mission or launch date. Delta II has been the launcher for many NASA satellites – Dawn, Gravity Probe B, GRAIL, MESSENGER, Deep Space 1, Genesis, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (a.k.a. GLAST) and at least half a dozen Mars missions.
I’ll update with the launch video when it’s available. Launch time is 5:48 AM Eastern time.