SSEC Satellite Meteorology Timeline

For more than 50 years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been a leader in devising ways to view our planet through the eye of a satellite. In particular, scientists at the UW-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) have been at the forefront of developing the satellite technology that makes it possible to see and study the intricacies of Earth’s atmosphere from space. Some of the earliest experiments, beginning in the 1950s, were led by Professor Verner E. Suomi, founder of the Space Science and Engineering Center, and Professor Robert J. Parent, of the UW-Madison College of Engineering. Continuous observations of the Earth’s atmosphere from space revolutionized scientists' understanding of the motions of the atmosphere, paving the way for more accurate weather forecasts and faster and more precise warnings for severe weather, which have saved many lives and mitigated damage from storms and other severe weather events. Suomi’s contributions set the foundation for the technologies that made the routine observing of the Earth's weather from space possible. For those contributions, he is widely considered to be the “father of satellite meteorology.” With the establishment at Wisconsin of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) in 1980, satellite meteorology research at UW-Madison was bolstered through a more formal working relationship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA stations scientists at CIMSS to work side-by-side with Wisconsin researchers to continue the pioneering research begun by its founder, Verner E. Suomi.

For more information please visit:;xNLx;;xNLx;;xNLx;NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using VIIRS data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership. Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.

AIRS Science Team

“The NASA Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) flies on the Earth Observing System (EOS) Aqua research satellite. AIRS is the first of a new generation of high spectral resolution sounders that provide very high quality measurements. These improved measurements from AIRS will lead to more accurate surface and atmospheric products and weather forecasts. SSEC scientists are members of the AIRS science team and have developed algorithms to make the data useful, helped calibrate the instrument and validate its data, and written software for processing AIRS data from direct broadcast facilities.” text from

Participation in MODIS Science Team

MODIS data in real time. SSEC scientists have developed software (International MODIS/AIRS Processing Package (IMAPP)) to process direct broadcast data. IMAPP allows any ground station in the world capable of receiving direct broadcast from Terra or Aqua to produce calibrated and geolocated MODIS radiances (Level 1), along with a select group of science products (Level 2). IMAPP is derived from the operational MODIS processing software developed at NASA Goddard, and is modified to be compatible with direct broadcast data. text from

International ATOVS Processing Package (IAPP)

“The International ATOVS Processing Package (IAPP) was developed to retrieve atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles, total ozone, and other parameters in both clear and cloudy atmospheres from ATOVS radiance measurements.” text from

IMAPP: International MODIS/AIRS Processing Package

“The International MODIS/AIRS Processing Package (IMAPP) allows ground stations capable of receiving direct broadcast data from the NASA Terra and Aqua spacecraft to create a suite of products from MODIS, AIRS, AMSU, and AMSR-E. The IMAPP software is freely available, and is supported on Intel Linux host platforms. text from

CSPP: Community Satellite Processing Package

“The Community Satellite Processing Package (CSPP) supports the Direct Broadcast (DB) meteorological and environmental satellite community through the packaging and distribution of open source science software. CSPP supports DB users of both polar orbiting and geostationary satellite data processing and regional real-time applications through distribution of free open source software, and through training in local product applications. CSPP is funded through NOAA JPSS.” text from


For the Continuity of the GOES mission:


GOES-2 launched on June 16, 1977 aboard a Delta rocket. It carried the Visible Infrared Spin-Scan Radiometer (VISSR). Geostationary operational environmental satellites (GOES) orbit the Earth at 22,000 miles. Developed at the Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC), UW-Madison and built by Santa Barbara Research Center (SBRC), the instrument would provide high-quality day/night cloud cover data and take radiance-derived temperatures of the earth/atmosphere system.

First Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral

First rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, July 1950. Using a V-2 missile base, the upper stage was able to reach nearly 400 kilometers, higher than modern space shuttles  today.

Heat Budget

Satellite weather pioneer Verner E. Suomi measured the heat budget of a cornfield in support of his doctoral thesis from the University of Chicago. He measured the difference between the amount of energy absorbed and the amount of energy lost in a cornfield. This led him to think about the Earth’s heat budget.

U.S. announces plans to launch world's first man-made satellite.

Presidential press secretary James Hagerty with scientists during a meeting at which the announcement of President Dwight Eisenhower's approval of a satellite plan was made.

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