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How to Follow a Raindrop

Raytheon technology tracks the weather from space to the sidewalk

A “Blue Marble” image of the Earth taken from Raytheon’s VIIRS instrument aboard the NOAA/NASA Earth-observing satellite – Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP). This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken Jan. 4, 2012. Courtesy of NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

With every major storm, a steady stream of information known as "environmental intelligence" flows to government, the military, businesses and citizens throughout the U.S.

The information travels from satellites in space to ground networks to data processing systems that use complex software applications to issue forecasts and warnings. Raytheon makes much of the technology, from sensors on the satellites to the software that makes sense of the images beamed from space.

Space-based Sensors

Raytheon's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi NPP satellite captures an infrared image of Hurricane Irma, Sept. 7, 2017. Photo courtesy of NOAA/NASA/UWM-CIMSS, William Straka III

The first signs of a storm are captured by a Raytheon instrument on a joint National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite. Raytheon’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS, captures the photons in space – the first stop on forecasting the weather.

Ground Control

The Svalbard, Norway, Ground Station is a part of the global network of receiving stations linked to NOAA, which distributes satellite data and derived products to users worldwide for the JPSS mission. Raytheon’s JPSS ground system delivers fresh data from the next generation of polar-orbiting satellites to users more quickly than ever before. Photo courtesy of NOAA

Raytheon's VIIRS satellite sensor is one of the primary sensors on the satellites that will eventually be part of a constellation named the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). It's connected through Raytheon's JPSS Common Ground System, which  receives the images of the storm.

Decision Time

Raytheon's AWIPS ingests and analyzes data, creates useful visualizations and distributes time-sensitive weather statements such as watches and warnings.

On Earth, the images of the storm will be added to a library of more than nine petabytes of data that can be can be analyzed for long-term, practical environmental insights. More immediately, the image can be used by the Raytheon-supported systems at the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration to inform military and commercial flights of important weather information.

The National Weather Service (NWS) uses another Raytheon product to provide forecasts. The Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) translates a photon in space into actionable weather intelligence, further analyzing the space-based data, overlaying it with data from other ground-based and airborne sensor systems and creating visualizations for weather forecasters. The more than 140 local NWS offices release regular forecasts and can issue alerts when the weather is severe enough to threaten life and property.

Raytheon systems build predictions that we all depend on, from photons in space to raindrops hitting the ground.

Last Updated: 09/08/2017

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