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JPSS-2 (Joint Polar Satellite System-2)

Development Status     Spacecraft     Launch     Sensor complement     LOFTID     References

JPSS is a collaborative program between NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and its acquisition agent, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). JPSS-2 is the second mission of NOAA's POES (Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellites) system new generation providing operational continuity of satellite-based observations and products. The JPSS-2 spacecraft will feature several instruments similar to those found on NOAA-20— VIIRS, CrIS, ATMS and OMPS-N—and provide operational continuity of satellite-based observations of atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic conditions for both weather forecasting and long-term climate and environmental data records. 1)

JPSS-2 satellite is one of the five satellites, which are part of the JPSS constellation. The satellites in the JPSS series include JPSS-1, Suomi NPP (Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership), and two more optional satellites JPSS-3 and JPSS-4. The JPSS-2 satellite, together with the Suomi-NPP and JPSS-1 satellites, will collect global measurements of atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic conditions.




Development status

• May 31, 2022: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are now targeting Nov. 1, 2022, as the new launch date for NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) satellite mission. During recent tests of a key instrument designed to collect visible and infrared images, the team found and corrected an issue, which resulted in additional time needed to complete thermal vacuum testing. 2)

- The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite instrument (VIIRS), experienced a test equipment issue during thermal vacuum testing. Engineers determined the issue was the result of the movement of test equipment caused by temperature fluctuations during the test. After modifying the test set up, the team retested the system, and it demonstrated excellent performance.

- JPSS-2, the third satellite in the Joint Polar Satellite System series, is scheduled to lift off from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The satellite, to be renamed NOAA-21 upon successfully reaching orbit, will continue the work of its predecessors NOAA-20 (formerly JPSS-1) and the NOAA-NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP). NASA's Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy Space Center, is managing the launch.

- JPSS-2 will scan the globe as it orbits from the North to the South Pole, crossing the equator 14 times a day. From 512 miles above Earth, it will capture data that inform weather forecasts, extreme weather events, and climate change. VIIRS collects imagery for global observations of the land, atmosphere, cryosphere, and oceans.

- Launching as a secondary payload to JPSS-2 is NASA's Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID), dedicated to the memory of Bernard Kutter. LOFTID is a demonstration of a hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator, or aeroshell, technology that could one day help land humans on Mars.

- Together, NOAA and NASA oversee the development, launch, testing, and operation of all the satellites in the JPSS program. NOAA funds and manages the program, operations, and data products. On behalf of NOAA, NASA develops and builds the instruments, spacecraft, and ground system, and launches the satellites, which NOAA operates.

• October 17, 2019: The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Joint Polar Satellite System-2 spacecraft, scheduled to launch in 2022, has been fully assembled and has begun environmental testing. 3)

- A next-generation instrument that detects microwave radiation from the Earth's atmosphere and surface, ATMS provides atmospheric temperature and moisture data that is critical for weather forecasting and global climate trends.

- "Data from ATMS instruments on the JPSS satellites – including NOAA-20 and its predecessor Suomi-NPP – have significantly improved the accuracy of U.S. short and medium range weather forecasts," said Greg Mandt, program director for the JPSS (Joint Polar Satellite System) Program. "After it is launched in 2022, the JPSS-2 ATMS instrument will be used to ensure continuity for these improvements for years to come."

- Northrop Grumman, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, is responsible for the manufacturing, test and delivery of the ATMS instrument for JPSS-2. The instrument has been in development since 2016, and environmental testing marks the final step before the instrument gets delivered for integration into the JPSS-2 spacecraft early next year. The rigorous testing will ensure the instrument can successfully withstand launch and the harsh environment of space.

- "Every detail matters in ATMS's environmental test campaign. This is the most rigorous, thorough assessment the instrument will see, until it is on orbit," said Bob Mehltretter, vice president, military and civil space, Northrop Grumman. "Our close collaboration with NASA and NOAA throughout the testing ensures that ATMS will provide quality data for our weather forecasts."

- Northrop Grumman is also responsible for the design, production and integration of the JPSS-2 spacecraft. The satellite is under construction at the company's Gilbert, Arizona, satellite manufacturing facility.

- ATMS currently flies on the NOAA-20 and Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite missions. JPSS-2 will become NOAA-21 upon successful launch and on-orbit check-out.

- JPSS (Joint Polar Satellite System) is the nation's advanced series of polar-orbiting environmental satellites. JPSS represents significant technological and scientific advancements in observations used for severe weather prediction and environmental monitoring. These data are critical to the timeliness and accuracy of forecasts three to seven days in advance of a severe weather event. JPSS is a collaborative effort between NOAA and NASA.

- NOAA's National Weather Service uses JPSS data as critical input for numerical forecast models, providing the basis for mid-range forecasts. These forecasts enable emergency managers to make timely decisions to protect American lives and property, including early warnings and evacuations.


Figure 1: The Joint Polar Satellite System-2's fully assembled ATMS (Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder) instrument undergoes electromagnetic interference testing at the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facility in Gilbert, Arizona (image credit: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems)

• October 4, 2018: The JPSS-2 mission cleared its CDR (Critical Design Review) in September 2018. Passing the CDR, a technical review, means that design and analysis of the satellite system, which includes its ground system and flight plan, is complete, and that the project is ready to continue in its next phases: fabrication, assembly, integration and testing. 4)


Figure 2: Northrop Grumman Information Systems (NGIS) technicians install flight harnesses onto the JPSS-2 structure on August 9, 2018 (Photo credit: NGIS)

• On June 6, 2018, NGC (Northrop Grumman Corporation) announced it has closed the acquisition of Orbital ATK Inc. ("Orbital ATK"), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. Orbital ATK is now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, a new, fourth business sector. 5) — Up to now, NASA had signed contracts for the JPSS-2 spacecraft and follow-up missions with Orbital ATK.

- There are some requirements attached to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) approval of the Northrop Grumman acquisition of Orbital ATK. 6)

- The FCC will require Northrop Grumman to supply SRMs (Solid Rocket Motors) to competitors on a non-discriminatory basis as part of a settlement resolving charges that Northrop's $7.8 billion acquisition of aerospace and defense contractor Orbital ATK likely would be anti-competitive. The proposed settlement requires Northrop to separate the operation of its SRM business from the rest of the company's operations with a firewall and also provides for the Department of Defense (DoD) to appoint a compliance officer to oversee Northrop's conduct pursuant to the settlement.

- The products at issue: Northrop is one of four companies capable of supplying the U.S. government with missile systems, including tactical missiles, strategic missiles and missile defense interceptors according to the complaint. Orbital ATK is the premier supplier of SRMs, which propel missiles to their intended targets and are an essential input for missile systems.

- What this means for consumers: The FTC's complaint alleges that Northrop's proposed acquisition of Orbital ATK would have reduced competition in the market for missile systems purchased by the U.S. government, resulting in less innovation and higher prices for taxpayers. By ensuring that other missile suppliers can continue to compete, the settlement preserves the pro-competitive benefits of the transaction while addressing the potential anti-competitive harms.

- The competition concerns and economic implications: According to the complaint, the acquisition would provide Northrop with the incentive and ability to harm competition for missile contracts by either withholding access to its solid rocket motors or increasing SRM prices to competitors. As a result, competitors would be forced to raise the prices of their missile systems, invest less aggressively to win missile programs, or decide not to compete at all, which, in turn, would decrease competitive pressure on Northrop. The FTC alleged that the acquisition would have violated federal law by reducing competition in the market for these missile systems.

• May 25, 2018: NASA has exercised options under the Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition III (Rapid III)contract for two additional JPSS (Joint Polar Satellite System) spacecraft to be built for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). 7) 8)

- Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia, will build NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System JPSS-3 and -4. The contract value is $460 million and the period of performance will extend through 2026. The work will be performed at Orbital ATK's facility in Gilbert, Arizona. Orbital, which currently is developing the JPSS-2 spacecraft, will design, develop, fabricate, integrate, test and provide post-delivery support for the third and fourth spacecraft in the series.

• March 31, 2018: NASA has definitized additional requirements under the Joint Polar Satellite System Common Ground System contract with Raytheon, IIS of Aurora, Colorado. 9)

- This cost-plus award fee modification will increase the contract by $59,249,825 for a total value of approximately $1,919,705,269. The period of performance remains unchanged as September 30, 2022. The work will be performed at Raytheon's facilities, at NASA and NOAA locations and at other US Government facilities.

- The additional work is necessary due to new requirements in the technical baseline for the JPSS-2 satellite that were unknown at the time of the initial contract award and that differ from those capabilities required for the JPSS-1 satellite. The work includes, but is not limited to, updating the Block 2.1 Command, Control, and Communications (C3S) to enable C3S to command and control the spacecraft and receive, process and utilize JPSS-2 telemetry; updating the Interface Data Processing Segment to acquire, ingest, and process Stored Mission Data; updating Block 2.1 Flight Vehicle Test Simulator operations Class Simulation Nodes and Ground Link Simulator to support JPSS-2 spacecraft simulation, and; connecting the JPSS Wide Area Network to the spacecraft contractor's facility.

- This modification also updates Security and Privacy controls for Federal Information Systems (NIST 800-53 Rev 4), and extends the Security Incident Response Team efforts through calendar year 2022.

• January 26, 2018: NASA has been developing a next-generation sensor to collect this type of data – the RBI (Radiation Budget Instrument). However, RBI has experienced significant technical issues and substantial cost growth over the past two years. Because of these challenges, and the low risk of experiencing a gap in this data record over the next eight years due to having two relatively new instruments presently in orbit, NASA has decided to discontinue development of RBI. 10)

- NASA's newest sensor measuring Earth's radiation budget in orbit — CERES (Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System ) — was launched on Nov. 18, 2017, aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's JPSS-1 (Joint Polar Satellite System-1), now named NOAA-20. CERES instruments are currently collecting data on four different U.S. spacecraft, including the joint NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP launched in 2011. Two other CERES instruments have been operating well for more than a decade.

• November 2017: The JPSS-2,-3,-4 Spacecraft CDR (Critical Design Review) was held in late October 2017. The CDR was passed by the review team with no liens. One change in the program is that the CERES instrument is being replaced with the NASA-procured RBI (Radiation Budget Instrument) on JPSS-2 and beyond. The RBI completed its CDR in September 2017. The VIIRS for JPSS-2 was delivered in December 2017 and the VIIRS components and subsystems for JPSS-3 and -4 are progressing according to schedule. The hardware for the CrIS (Crosstrack Infrared Sounder) is progressing with optical mechanical assembly vibration completed. The hardware for the ATMS (Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder) is progressing and new IF amplifiers are being developed. Everything is on track for us to maintain the 31 July 31, 2021 launch readiness date for JPSS-2. 11)

• A PDR (Preliminary Design Review) for the JPSS-2 satellite was completed at Orbital ATK's facility in Gilbert, Arizona, in July 2017 (with representatives from NASA, NOAA and Orbital ATK). Also evaluated was Orbital ATK's responsibility for integrating five government-furnished instruments, and supporting the launch, early operations, and on-orbit satellite check-out prior to handing operations over to NOAA. 12)

• March 3, 2017: NASA has selected ULS (United Launch Services LLC) of Centennial, Colorado, to provide launch services for the JPSS-2 (Joint Polar Satellite System-2) mission for NOAA. Launch is currently targeted for 2021 on an Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 13)

• March 23, 2015: NASA has awarded a delivery order under the Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition III (Rapid III) contract to Orbital ATK (formerly Orbital Sciences Corporation) of Dulles, Virginia, for the JPSS-2 spacecraft, a firm fixed-price indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity delivery order for the purchase of the JPSS-2 spacecraft with options to purchase the JPSS-3 and JPSS-4 spacecraft. Orbital will be responsible for designing and fabricating the JPSS-2 spacecraft, integration of government-furnished instruments, satellite-level testing, on-orbit satellite check-out and mission operations support. The contractor also will provide five Flight Segment Emulators. The work will be performed at the contractor's facility and at the launch site. 14)





The JPSS satellites will provide operational continuity of space-based weather observations, extending the successful 50-year NOAA/NASA partnership into the 2020 and 2030 decades. Orbital ATK is responsible for the design and fabrication of the spacecraft, integration of government-furnished instruments, testing of the satellites and in-orbit checkouts. The JPSS-2 satellite is on schedule for delivery in 2022, while JPSS-3 and JPSS-4 are on contract for delivery in 2023 and 2026, respectively, with launch dates determined by NOAA/NASA. Each JPSS satellite will have a design life of at least seven years once launched into orbit. 15)

Representatives from NASA, NOAA and Orbital ATK completed a successful spacecraft Critical Design Review (CDR) for the three JPSS spacecraft in October 2017, which demonstrated that the program met all system and schedule requirements. JPSS-2 is currently scheduled to begin spacecraft integration and testing in summer 2018 at Orbital ATK's Gilbert, Arizona, satellite manufacturing facility.

JPSS-2 will be the company's first operational weather spacecraft and will be built on the company's LEOStar-3 platform, a flight-proven flexible satellite platform that can accommodate a variety of missions, including the successfully-launched NASA's Fermi and Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory gamma-ray astrophysics satellites and the Landsat-8 Earth science satellite. The Landsat-9 and ICESat-2 spacecraft, currently in production with the company, are also built on this platform.

JPSS-2 satellite will have a launch mass of 2,930 kg and is designed for a lifespan of seven years. It will feature a deployable five-panel solar array that will generate 4,450 W of power. The JPSS-2 satellite will provide observations that are critical for accurate prediction of hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards. The data provided by the satellite will be used for exact and timely public forecasts. The observations will help to reduce loss of life and property, and minimize economic impact.



Figure 3: An artist's rendering of the JPSS-2 satellite, which will be renamed NOAA-21 once in orbit (image credit: NOAA) 16)


Launch: The JPSS-2 satellite will be launched in November 2022 aboard an Atlas-V 401 vehicle of ULS (United Launch Services) from VSFB (Vandenberg Space Force Base) in California. The satellite, to be renamed NOAA-21 upon successfully reaching orbit, will continue the work of its predecessors NOAA-20 (formerly JPSS-1) and the NOAA-NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP).

Orbit: Sun-synchronous orbit, altitude of 824 km, inclination = 98.7º, period = 101 minutes, ground track: 20 km repeat accuracy at the equator with 20 day repeat cycle, LTAN = 13:30 hours ±10 minutes.




Sensor complement: (ATMS, CrIS, OMPS, VIIRS)

JPSS-2 will scan the globe as it orbits from the North to the South Pole, crossing the equator 14 times a day. From 512 miles above Earth, it will capture data that inform weather forecasts, extreme weather events, and climate change. Data collected will also be used to evaluate environmental hazards, including sea ice, floods, volcanic ash, wild fires, and poor air quality.

ATMS (Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder)

ATMS, developed by Northrop Grumman Electronics Systems, will be used for measuring atmospheric temperature and moisture for operational weather and climate applications.

CrIS (Cross-track Infrared Sounder)

The CrIS instrument, developed by Harris Corporation, will be used for deriving accurate temperature and moisture observations.

OMPS (Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite -limb and nadir)

The BATC's (Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation) OMPS instrument will be used for tracking the health of the ozone layer and measuring the ozone concentration in the Earth's atmosphere.

VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite)

The VIIRS instrument, developed by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, will be used for the collection of visible and infrared imagery, and global observations of land, atmosphere, cryosphere and oceans, even in the lowest moonlit conditions.




LOFTID (Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator)

Launching as a secondary payload to JPSS-2 is NASA's LOFTID instrumentation, dedicated to the memory of Bernard Kutter. LOFTID is a demonstration of a hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator, or aeroshell, technology that could one day help land humans on Mars.

The LOFTID project is sponsored by the Technology Demonstration Missions program within NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate in partnership with United Launch Alliance. LOFTID is managed by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, with contributions from NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.

LOFTID is demonstrating a truly crosscutting technology for atmospheric entry. One of the challenges NASA faces is how to deliver heavy payloads (experiments, equipment, and/or people) to destinations with an atmosphere. This technology enables a variety of proposed NASA missions to destinations such as Mars, Venus, Titan, and return to Earth. 17) 18)

When a spacecraft enters an atmosphere, aerodynamic forces act upon it. Specifically, aerodynamic drag helps to slow it down, converting its kinetic energy into heat. Utilizing atmospheric drag is the most mass-efficient method to decelerate a spacecraft. The atmosphere of Mars is much less dense than that of Earth, and provides an extreme challenge for aerodynamic deceleration. The atmosphere is thick enough to account for some drag, but too thin to decelerate the spacecraft as quickly as it would in Earth's atmosphere. LOFTID acts as a giant brake by deploying a large inflatable aeroshell (a deployable structure protected by a flexible heatshield) before entering the atmosphere. The large aeroshell creates more drag and begins slowing down in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, allowing the spacecraft to decelerate sooner while experiencing less intense heating.

LOFTID is demonstrating a large aeroshell entry from orbit, and it is applicable to any destination with an atmosphere. Benefits of using the inflatable decelerator design for a variety of space applications include:

• Landing more mass

• Landing at higher altitude locations

• Enabling better utilization of the full volume of a launch vehicle fairing by stowing forward of the spacecraft (rather than encapsulating it within a rigid aeroshell) at launch

• Enabling more access to spacecraft while integrated in the launch vehicle stack.

The inflatable decelerator technology should be scalable to both crewed and larger robotic missions to Mars. Potential commercial applications include (in order of increasing scale):

• LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) return (free flyer, in-space manufactured materials)

• International Space Station down mass (without Shuttle, the U.S. has no large-scale down mass capability)

• Lower cost access to space through launch vehicle asset recovery.

The LOFTID project is a part of the Technology Demonstration Missions Program sponsored by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. The project is managed by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Figure 4: Technology to deliver people, and their associated large payloads, safely to Mars is being developed and tested right now. Engineers are working to overcome the challenges of landing heavier cargos than ever before on other planets, and as well as returning things to Earth, using a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technique. The Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator, or LOFTID, will demonstrate the next generation of HIAD technology. Learn more about the latest in NASA's cutting-edge entry, descent and landing technology in this episode of NASA X (video credit: NASA)


Figure 5: Artist's illustration of the deployed LOFTID in orbit (image credit: NASA)


LOFTID project overview

LOFTID is a public-private partnership between NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate and United Launch Alliance (ULA). The LOFTID project is poised to revolutionize the way NASA and industry deliver payloads to a planet's surface or into orbit, utilizing aerodynamic forces instead of propulsion. Since NASA's inception in 1958, the agency has relied heavily on retro-propulsion (rockets) and rigid heat shields to decelerate people, vehicles, and hardware during orbital entry, descent, and landing (EDL) operations. — After more than a decade of development of the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology, including two suborbital flight tests, the LOFTID orbital flight test is the next logical step. Return from orbit provides an entry environment relevant to many potential applications, paving the way for its use on future missions. 19) 20)

HIAD technology can enhance, and even enable, larger missions to higher elevations at Mars. It can also be applied at Earth, providing capability for International Space Station (ISS) down-mass, or even enabling return for free-flying orbital manufacturing. Recovery of spent launch vehicle assets for reuse, such as ULA's plan to recover their first stage booster, can reduce the overall cost of access to space.

Enabling Mass Efficient and Cost Effective Payload Delivery Solutions

For destinations with a sensible atmosphere, aerodynamics (specifically atmospheric drag) provides the most mass-effective way to decelerate a payload to a soft landing, or capture it into orbit. Larger aerodynamic decelerators, or aeroshells, provide more drag force, and therefore allow larger masses to be delivered to any elevation. HIAD overcomes packaging limitations of current rigid systems by utilizing inflatable soft-goods materials that can be stowed within the launch vehicle shroud. The aeroshell is deployed outside the atmosphere prior to atmospheric entry. HIAD technology enables a lower mass solution for slowing a spacecraft during EDL. Ultimately, increased payload mass fraction means cost savings.

The Technology

Vehicles entering an atmosphere from outer space are traveling so fast that they create a high-energy pressure wave. This pressure wave entraps and rapidly compresses atmospheric gases, resulting in drag forces that decelerate the vehicle coupled with intense thermal loads that heat its surface. The HIAD design consists of an inflatable structure that maintains the aeroshell shape against the drag forces, and a protective FTPS (Flexible Thermal Protection System) that withstands the thermal loading. The term "flexible" refers to the FTPS being foldable, packable, deployable, and tailorable as opposed to being stretchable.

Normally, soft-goods materials would not be considered for the loads and environments that a spacecraft would encounter during atmospheric entry. Materials advancement is the key. The inflatable structure is constructed with a stack of pressurized concentric tubes, or tori, that are strapped together to form an exceptionally strong blunt cone-shaped structure. The tori are constructed from braided synthetic fibers that are 15 times stronger than steel. While the inflatable structure has the capability to withstand temperatures beyond 400 ºC, the HIAD relies on the FTPS to survive entry temperatures.

The FTPS, which covers the inflatable structure and insulates it from the searing heat of atmospheric entry, can be separated into three functional layers: an exterior ceramic fiber cloth layer that can maintain integrity at surface temperatures in excess of 1600º C, protecting the underlying plies from the aerodynamic shear forces; a middle layer of high temperature insulators that inhibit heat transmission; and an interior impermeable gas barrier layer that prevents hot gas from reaching the inflatable structure.

The Mission

The LOFTID Reentry Vehicle (RV) is a secondary payload hosted on an Atlas V launch vehicle, and will be delivered to its reentry state by the Centaur, the Atlas V second stage. The RV is stowed within a primary payload adapter on the Centaur, such that the primary payload adapter can be released and separated to expose the stowed aeroshell for deployment while the RV is attached to the Centaur. The RV is inactive and powered off during the launch and delivery of the primary payload. After the primary payload has been delivered to orbit, the Centaur performs a deorbit burn to reenter the Earth's atmosphere. After the payload adaptor is jettisoned, the RV is then powered on, the packing restraint is released, and the aeroshell inflation is initiated. The inflation system begins a "soft start" and then full inflation, delivering nitrogen inflation gas from pressurized tanks provided by ULA.

When the aeroshell is fully inflated, the Centaur attitude control system spins up the spacecraft and performs a final pointing adjustment before releasing the RV on its spin-stabilized reentry trajectory. The Centaur then performs a divert maneuver to avoid re-contact with the RV as the Centaur burns up on reentry.

The RV reenters the atmosphere on the prescribed trajectory, and decelerates from hypersonic down to subsonic flight. Throughout the RV flight, a real-time beacon transmits minimal data packets to a satellite network, while data from instrumentation, cameras, and other subsystems is acquired and processed, sending duplicate comprehensive data to both an Internal Data Recorder (IDR) and an Ejectable Data Recorder (EDR). After reentry, the RV ejects the EDR, which is buoyant and provides a GPS locator signal for physical recovery from the ocean surface. As a secondary means of recovery provided by ULA, the RV deploys a parachute to enable a soft splash down and boat retrieval of the RV from the ocean surface.

Key Facts

• Orbital reentry flight demonstration of advanced inflatable aeroshell

• Validates structural and thermal performance against mission relevant flight conditions

• Largest blunt body atmospheric entry ever, 6m diameter.

• Able to withstand temperatures in excess of 1600ºC (2900ºF).

Mission Name

LOFTID (Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator)

Launch Date


Mission Launch and Splashdown

VAFB (Vandenberg Air Force Base), Reentry over Pacific Ocean

Mass of RV (Reentry Vehicle)

1224 kg

Size of RV (Reentry Vehicle)

6 m diameter x 1.5 m tall

Table 1: Mission specifics


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2) "NASA Eyes November for Launch of NOAA's JPSS-2," NASA Feature, 31 May 2022, URL:

3) "Joint Polar Satellite System's Microwave Instrument Fully Assembled," NASA Goddard Press Release, 17 October 2019, URL:

4) "NOAA's JPSS-2 Satellite Passes Critical Design Review," NOAA, 4 October 2018, URL:

5) "Northrop Grumman Completes Orbital ATK Acquisition, Blake Larson Elected to Lead New Innovation Systems Sector," Northrop Grumman News, 6 June 2018, URL:

6) "FCC OK's Northrop Grumman's Acquisition of Orbital ATK... With Some Requirements...," Satnews Daily, 6 June 2018, URL:

7) Cynthia O'Ocaroll, "NASA Awards Options for Two Joint Polar Satellite System Spacecraft," NASA, Contract Release C18-014, 25 May 2018, URL:

8) "Orbital ATK to Build Two Additional U.S. Weather Satellites for NOAA," Business Wire, 25 May 2018, URL:

9) "NASA Awards Change Order to JPSS Common Ground System Contract," NASA, Contract Release C18-10, 31 March 2018, URL:

10) Steve Cole, "NASA Cancels Earth Science Sensor Set for 2021 Launch," NASA, 26 Jan. 2018, URL:

11) "From the Program Director," Science Seminar Annual Digest 2017, page 7, URL:

12) Kendall Russell, "JPSS 2 Passes CDR, Moves Closer to Launch," Via Satellite, 1 Dec. 2017, URL:

13) "NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Joint Polar Satellite System-2 Mission," NASA, Contract Release CO6-17, 3 March 2017, URL:

14) "NASA Awards Contract for NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System-2 Spacecraft," NASA , Contract Release C15-005, 23 March 2015, URL:

15) "Orbital ATK wins contract for two more JPSS spacecraft," Geospatial World, June 1, 2018, URL:

16) "NOAA's JPSS-2 Mission Has New Launch Date," NOAA. 31 May 2022, URL:

17) "Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID)," NASA, June 25, 2019, URL:

18) R. A. Dillman, J. M. DiNonno, R. J. Bodkin, S. J. Hughes, F. M. Cheatwood, H. Blakeley, R. L. Akamine, & A. Bowes, "Planned Orbital Flight Test of a 6m HIAD," 2018 International Planetary Probe Workshop Boulder, Colorado, USA, June 11-15, 2018, URL:

19) "Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator (LOFTID)," NASA Fact Sheet, June 2019, URL:

20) Stephen J. Hughes, Dr. F. McNeil Cheatwood, Dr. Anthony M. Calomino, Henry S. Wright, Mary Elizabeth Wusk and Monica F. Hughes, "Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) Technology Development Overview," NASA, 2013, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (


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