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;http://library.ssec.wisc.edu;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.

1950-01-01 12:40:18

Introduction

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.

1950-07-24 04:31:23

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.

1953-05-13 00:00:00

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.

1955-07-28 12:40:18

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.

1957-07-01 12:40:18

International Geophysical Year

The International Geophysical Year went from July 1957 - December 1958. It was intended to allow scientists from around the world to take part in a series of coordinated observations of various geophysical phenomena.

1957-10-04 12:40:18

Sputnik I

In October, the Soviet Union successfully launches Sputnik 1 as a contribution to the IGY, triggering the space race between the United States and the U.S.S.R.

1957-12-06 12:40:18

Vanguard explodes

The launching of Sputnik I pushed the launching of Vanguard to the forefront of U.S. public's attention. A malfunction in the first stage caused the vehicle to lose thrust after two seconds and it was destroyed. With the world watching, Vanguard exploded on the launch pad.

1957-12-06 12:40:18

Suomi and Parent design instruments

Dr. Verner Suomi and Dr. Robert Parent, University of Wisconsin-Madison, headed a team that developed an instrument that would measure radiation received and lost by the Earth. The satellite was to be launched by a NASA Vanguard rocket.

1958-01-31 12:40:18

The United States launches its first satellite

United States successfully launches its first satellite, Explorer-1, on 31 January 1958.

1958-10-01 12:40:18

Congress creates NASA

Congress passes the Space Act, creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to perform civilian research related to space flight and aeronautics.

1959-06-22 12:40:18

Vanguard SLV-6

Verner Suomi and Robert Parent's instrument for measuring the heat balance of the earth was included in the payload of Vanguard SLV-6 launched on 22 June. A faulty second stage pressure valve caused mission failure.

1959-07-17 12:40:18

Explorer 7x (aka Explorer S-1)

Instrumentation developed by Verner Suomi and Robert Parent, University of Wisconsin-Madison, to measure the earth's heat balance was included in the payload of Explorer 7X (also known as Explorer S-1), launched on July 16. The rocket was intentionally destroyed by the Range Safety Officer five and a half seconds after liftoff because of a failure of the power supply to the guidance system. The rocket crashed and burned approximately 150 feet from the blockhouse where Suomi, Parent and others were trapped for about an hour. After it had cooled they hacksawed their instrument package from the wreckage.

1959-10-13 12:40:18

Explorer 7 launch

Radiometer instrument designed by Verner Suomi and Robert Parent to conduct the first Earth radiation experiment flies on Explorer 7. With this experiment, Suomi establishes the critical role played by clouds in absorbing solar energy, setting the stage for the integration of satellites into the field of meteorology.

1960-04-01 12:40:18

First picture of Earth from TIROS-1

The TIROS Program (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) was NASA's early program to determine if satellites could be useful in the study of the Earth. While TIROS-1 was only operational for 78 days, it provided a number of images of the Earth and cloud systems, including the first image of a tropical cyclone, over the South Pacific Ocean on April 10, 1960.

1961-07-12 12:40:18

TIROS 3 launch

The TIROS 3 satellite experiments included UW-Madison professor Verner Suomi's Low-Resolution Omnidirectional Radiometer.

1962-02-08 11:49:47

TIROS 4 launch

The TIROS 4 satellite experiments included UW-Madison professor Verner Suomi's Low-Resolution Omnidirectional Radiometer.

1963-06-19 11:49:47

TIROS 7

The TIROS 7 satellite; once again, experiments included UW-Madison professor Verner Suomi's Low-Resolution Omnidirectional Radiometer.

1964-01-01 11:49:47

Proposal for ATS

The initial proposal for an Applications Technology Satellite experiment is submitted to NASA by Verner Suomi and Robert Parent, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

1965-01-01 12:40:18

Space Science and Engineering Center

Funding from NASA , the National Science Foundation, and the State of Wisconsin established the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

1966-01-03 11:49:47

Verner Suomi explains geostationary orbit (video)

Geostationary orbit occurs at roughly six times the earth's radius above the equator. The orbital period is 24 hours, equaling the one day rotation of the Earth on its axis.

1966-10-02 00:00:00

ESSA 3

The ESSA 3 satellite included UW-Madison professor Verner Suomi's experiment, the Flat Plate Radiometer (FPR)

1966-12-07 04:31:23

ATS-I and the Spin-Scan Cloud Camera

ATS-I, the first geostationary satellite, launched on December 7, 1966 (UTC). It carried Robert Parent and Verner Suomi's Spin-Scan Cloud Camera (SSCC), the technology that made viewing Earth from geosynchronous orbit possible. The launch of ATS-I ushered in the era of continuous viewing of weather from space. Suomi understood the benefits of observing a single weather phenomenon over time. These kinds of observations were not possible using the early, low-altitude polar-orbiting satellites. Identical experiments were flown on the ESSA 5, ESSA 7, and ESSA 9 spacecrafts. The radiometer performed normally, and good data was obtained from launch until the tape recorder failed on January 20, 1967.

1967-01-02 04:31:23

Video: Weather in motion from a synchronous satellite

Four parts 1) full disc time lapse for 7 January 1967, 19 February 1967, 16 April 1967; 2) close up views of cloud waves associated with a polar jet, 19 February 1967; 3) one picture per day showing a month's weather for 21 January-28 February 1967; 4) close up views of birth and death of a hurricane, 6-15 April 1967.

1967-01-07 11:49:47

Video: Mesoscale cloud patterns

A.) ATS-I: cloud waves associated with polar jet on 19 February 1967; Easterly waves in the SE Pacific; complete days for 13-24 April 1967 (dates shown in each frame); Typhoon Sarah for 31 August-22 September 1967; B.) ATS-III: snowstorm over E Coast of US and Canada; cyclone over western Atlantic and jet stream over north Africa; fog leaving coast of Chile and cold front approaching tip of South America; tornado watch over United States on 19 April 1968.

1967-04-20 12:40:18

ESSA 5

The ESSA 5 satellite carried the Flat Plate Radiometer Experiment (FPR). Verner Suomi, University of Wisconsin-Madison, was the principal investigator on the FPR, which was one of two experiments in the payload of the satellite. The experiment performed normally, and good data was obtained from launch until September 22, 1967, when the radiometer failed. Identical experiments were flown on ESSA 3, 7, and 9 spacecrafts.

1967-11-05 00:00:00

ATS-III takes first color images of Earth

ATS-III launched on November, 5 1967. It sent the first color images from the Multicolor Spin-Scan Cloudcover Camera (MSSCC), the second generation of UW-Madison professor Verner Suomi's revolutionary technology. The ATS-III was the only geostationary satellite with a channel for observing phenomena in true blue color, which was, and remains, a unique feature for a weather satellite. The camera provided color pictures for approximately three months at which time the red and blue channels failed. The system continued to transmit black-and-white pictures until December, 11 1974.

1967-11-18 00:00:00

Weather in Motion and Color: From ATS-III Synchronous Satellite

Brief background information on ATS-III satellite. Cyclone over E Coast of the United States and Canada on 18 November 1967. Coverage of Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, cyclone over NE Atlantic, intersection of cloud jets leaving N Africa. Equatorial Atlantic, stratus leaving the coast of Chile, and a cyclone approaching the tip of South America.

1967-11-18 12:40:18

First Color Movie of the Planet Earth Viewed from 22,300 Miles Over Brazil

ATS-III Satellite photos of 18 November 1967, with surface weather analysis for full disk view. Close ups include: United States, Canada, Greenland, Mexico, Caribbean, Barbados, Galapagos, Easter Island, Peru, Amazon, SE Brazil, Central Andes, Southern Andes, Chile, Tristan da Cunha, St. Helena, Ascension Island, Equatorial Atlantic, W Africa, Sahara, Canary Islands, Azores, and Bermuda.

1968-05-01 00:00:00

The 1968 Barbados Experiment

1968 Barbados experiment movie - May, June, and July, by V.E. Suomi and S. Cox. Daily cloud motions over Barbados from the ATS-III satellite. Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), BOMEX Project Office, n.d. 12 minutes, silent, black and white. Schwerdtfeger Library Film #9.

1968-06-15 12:40:18

ATS display software

Display software developed at the Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC), University of Wisconsin-Madison, allowed direct interface with the ATS image archive.

1968-08-16 11:49:47

ESSA 7

The ESSA 7 satellite included UW-Madison professor Verner Suomi's Flat Plate Radiometer (FPR) as one of two experiments. The radiometer performed normally, and good data was obtained from launch until June 23, 1969, when the radiometer failed. Identical experiments were flown on the ESSA 3, ESSA 5, and ESSA 9 spacecraft.

1969-02-26 12:40:18

ESSA 9

The ESSA 9 satellite included UW-Madison professor Verner Suomi's Flat Plate Radiometer (FPR). The radiometer performed normally, and good data was obtained from launch until April 4, 1970, when an electronic failure occurred in the temperature calibration circuitry. The experiment was turned off on May 21, 1970. Identical experiments were flown on the ESSA 3, 5, and 7 spacecrafts.

1969-07-01 00:00:00

VAS credited to Suomi

Verner Suomi, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is credited with the concept of the VAS instrument. The VAS (a second-order acronym for VISSR (Visible and Infrared Spin-Scan Radiometer) Atmospheric Sounder) evolved from a concept for sounding from geosynchronous orbit, which he originally proposed in 1969.

1970-01-01 00:00:00

Video: ATS-I Spin-Scan Cloud Camera experiment in Japan

Collection of satellite pictures presumably collected during the experiment; 1) still satellite pictures showing full disc views for 14(2155Z), 17(2240Z), and 18(2130Z) January and 16(2145Z), 17(2210Z), 18(2220Z) and 19(2205Z) February 1970; 2) Photographic mean of the above photos; 3) cloud motions showing change between 2145Z and 2345Z on 18 February 1970; 4) Mercator projection of cloud patterns on 20 February 1970 at 000Z; 5) pressure, streamline, and 300mb streamline fields for 000Z on 20 February 1970.

1970-01-01 00:00:00

WINDCO: Precursor to McIDAS

Dr. Suomi obtained funding from NASA and NOAA to implement a proof-of-concept system dedicated to measuring and visualizing cloud drift winds. The new computer system had to allow the user to specify the image coordinates of a cloud in at least three successive images. Since the digital images were stored on computer tape, some method was required to map and display coordinates to and from tape. The proof-of-concept system used to demonstrate winds processing was called WINDCO (Lazzara, 1999). WINDCO was a precursor to the Man computer Interactive Data Access System (McIDAS).

1970-01-23 12:40:18

ITOS 1

ITOS 1 carried several experiments, including UW-Madison professor Verner Suomi's Flat Plate Radiometer (FPR). The experiment was a success, and good data was obtained until November 16, 1970, when the incremental tape recorder onboard failed. However, limited real-time data was obtained until June 18, 1971.

1970-12-11 12:40:18

NOAA 1

NOAA 1 carried several experiments, including Verner Suomi's Flat Plate Radiometer (FPR). The experiment was a success, and good data was obtained until May 29, 1971, when the incremental tape recorder onboard failed. The scanning radiometer continued partial operations until the spacecraft was deactivated on August 19, 1971. An identical experiment was flown on ESSA 3, 5, 7, and 9.

1972-01-01 12:40:18

McIDAS Prototype

The McIDAS prototype is functioning daily and provides University of Wisconsin meteorologists with quick and easy access to ATS data. Plans for expansion now being implemented will enable the system to efficiently access and process multispectral image data in many different formats from other spacecraft such as SMS, Mariner, EERTS, ITOS, and ESSA. [From - An interim report on the development of the Man-Computer Interactive Data Access System]

1972-01-01 12:40:18

VAS concept formalized

The VAS (a second order acronym for VISSR (Visible and Infrared Spin-Scan Radiometer) Atmospheric Sounder) concept was formalized in April 1972 by the SSEC at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the form of a preliminary instrument specification. Later in 1972 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requested that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) proceed with the development of a VAS instrument.

1972-01-03 12:40:18

McIDAS: First interactive meteorological processing & display system

The first generation Man computer Interactive Data Access System (McIDAS) was a single-user system based on a Harris/5 computer. It provided animation, display and analysis of data from geostationary satellites. Later, radar, meteorological observations and forecasts were added to the system. Developed at SSEC, it was the first ever tool to visualize satellite data.

1974-05-17 12:40:18

Synchronous Meteorological Satellite (SMS)

The success of UW-Madison professor Verner Suomi’s camera on the ATS series of satellites led to NASA's Synchronous Meteorological Satellite (SMS) with an infrared camera, allowing scientists to see clouds at night and to estimate their height in the atmosphere.

1974-06-01 11:49:47

GARP Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE)

The GARP Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE) began in June 1974 and ended in September 1974. SSEC experiments examined African squall lines during GATE, used satellite images to estimate rainfall over the GATE area, examined the structure of convective storms, studied vertical mass transports in GATE cloud clusters, developed techniques for improved use of satellite data, examined wind sets and continued the development of McIDAS using GATE data. Funding came from NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

1975-02-06 12:40:18

SMS 2

SMS-2 launched on February 6, 1975. It flew with the next generation Visible Infrared Spin-Scan Radiometer (VISSR).

1975-10-16 12:40:18

GOES-1 launch with VISSR

SMS series of satellites led to the launching of GOES-1 on October 16, 1975, carrying Suomi’s instrument, the Visible Infrared Spin-Scan Radiometer (VISSR).

1977-06-16 12:40:18

GOES-2

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.

1978-01-01 12:40:18

Videocassette archive established

SSEC engineers adapted a videocassette recorder to archive digital satellite data in order to solve the difficult problem of recording high-speed digital data from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) series of satellites. Video recorders had high bandwidths and long recording times, necessary for recording this type of data. The use of a video cassette recorder as a data recorder was attractive since GOES data have characteristics similar to those of a television signal. SSEC would become, in 1979, the national archive for GOES data.

1978-01-01 12:40:18

Second generation McIDAS

The second generation Man computer Interactive Data Access System (McIDAS) was implemented in 1978. It used Harris/6 computers networked with high speed communications. The configuration provided a centralized real-time database of satellite imagery and observational weather data

1978-06-16 12:40:18

GOES-3

GOES-3 launched on June 16, 1978 aboard a Delta rocket. It was a NASA-developed, NOAA-operated, geosynchronous, and operational spacecraft. The spin-stabilized spacecraft carried five experiments, including the UW-Madison developed Visible Infrared Spin-Scan Radiometer (VISSR) to provide high-quality day/night cloudcover data and to take radiance-derived temperatures of the earth/atmosphere system.

1978-12-01 12:40:18

First GARP Global Experiment (FGGE)

First GARP Global Experiment (FGGE) planned for 1978-1979. SSEC was selected to archive satellite wind vectors from cloud heights. Suomi played a key organizing role. Europe and Japan adopted Suomi’s basic concept to establish geostationary imaging over their parts of the world.

1979-01-01 04:31:23

High-resolution Interferometer Sounder (HIS)

UW-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center, working with industry, NOAA and NASA, led the design of the High-resolution Interferometer Sounder (HIS), the first hyperspectral GOES sounder, an instrument used to vertically probe the atmosphere.

SSEC Satellite Meteorology Timeline

Launch
Copy this timeline Login to copy this timeline 3d

Contact us

We'd love to hear from you. Please send questions or feedback to the below email addresses.

Before contacting us, you may wish to visit our FAQs page which has lots of useful info on Tiki-Toki.

We can be contacted by email at: hello@tiki-toki.com.

You can also follow us on twitter at twitter.com/tiki_toki.

If you are having any problems with Tiki-Toki, please contact us as at: help@tiki-toki.com

Close

Edit this timeline

Enter your name and the secret word given to you by the timeline's owner.

3-40 true Name must be at least three characters
3-40 true You need a secret word to edit this timeline

Checking details

Please check details and try again

Go
Close