A 'Blue Marble' image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite - Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed 'Suomi NPP' on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin, who is recognized widely as "the father of satellite meteorology."
NASA launched the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, on Oct. 28, 2011, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite is the first designed to collect critical data to improve short-term weather forecasts and increase understanding of long-term climate change.
Suomi NPP weighs about 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms) and orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 512 miles (824 kilometers). The satellite is expected to beam about 4 terabytes of data daily to Earth — the equivalent of about 800 DVDs.
The Suomi NPP mission is a bridge between NASA's Earth Observing System satellites to the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System, or JPSS, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) program.
"The new name now accurately describes the mission," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Suomi NPP will advance our scientific knowledge of Earth and improve the lives of Americans by enabling more accurate forecasts of weather, ocean conditions and the terrestrial biosphere. The mission is the product of a partnership between NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense, the private sector and academic researchers."
Verner Suomi pioneered remote sensing of Earth from satellites in polar orbits a few hundred miles above the surface with Explorer 7 in 1959 and geostationary orbits thousands of miles high with ATS-1 in 1966. He was best known for his invention of the "spin-scan" camera which enabled geostationary weather satellites to continuously image Earth, yielding the satellite pictures commonly used on television weather broadcasts. He also was involved in planning interplanetary spacecraft missions to Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Suomi spent nearly his entire career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where in 1965 he founded the university's Space Science and Engineering Center with funding from NASA. The center is known for Earth-observing satellite research and development. In 1964, Suomi served as chief scientist of the U.S. Weather Bureau for one year. He received the National Medal of Science in 1977. He died in 1995 at the age of 79.