REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Oct. 19, 2011 -- Continuing a 27-year legacy of commitment to recording global climate change measurement, a key Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) instrument will launch on the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft later this month.

The Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument has been integrated onto the NPP spacecraft, due to launch Oct. 27. CERES Flight Model 5 continues the legacy of Northrop Grumman-built broadband radiometers which measure the amount of sunlight reflected from the Earth and atmosphere as well as the thermal energy emitted by the Earth and its atmosphere.

This allows scientists to collect the data to monitor the temperature of the planet and validate models that calculate the effect of clouds in driving planetary heating or cooling. Science teams around the world use CERES data to understand the Earth's radiation budget which helps compute global temperature changes over the long term. These temperature changes can be enough to increase or shrink arable lands, lengthen growing seasons, and enlarge cold zones or deserts.

"CERES is broadly acknowledged as the most precisely calibrated optical radiometer ever to fly in space," said Mark Folkman, director, sensor products, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "In order to meet the stringent requirements of the climate community, Northrop Grumman has invested in a highly specialized facility for calibrating CERES instruments on the ground. These calibrations are regularly checked by on-board systems and have proven to be extremely stable."

"The four CERES instruments on NASA's Terra and Aqua Earth Observing System spacecraft are still operating and all are now well past their design lives," said Ravi Narasimhan, CERES program manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "We eagerly await the launch of CERES on NPP to preserve the continuity of this vital piece of the climate data record."

CERES instruments and an earlier generation of similar sensors also built by Northrop Grumman, called Earth Radiation Budget Experiment, have been capturing measurements of the reflected solar radiation and emitted thermal radiation over the Earth's surface since 1984.

Data from NPP supplied by CERES and other on-board instruments will be used to address an array of research questions. Meteorologists will incorporate the data into their weather and climate prediction models to produce accurate, life-saving forecasts and warnings. NPP data will also help emergency responders monitor and react to natural disasters.

CERES Flight Model 5 will carry forward the long-term Earth radiation budget measurements for the next several years. The CERES Flight Model 6 instrument, currently in final assembly, will be launched on the first of the next-generation of operational polar-orbiting environmental satellites called the Joint Polar Satellite System.


  • CERES is a scanning broadband radiometer designed to measure the emitted thermal and reflected solar radiative energy from the surface of the Earth and the atmosphere. The radiometer is made up of three sensors, each with its own telescope mounted on a gimbaled platform that continuously scans across the Earth in a 6.6-second cycle.
  • The CERES shortwave, longwave, and total sensor channels are calibrated to an accuracy that allows the reflected and emitted light from the Earth to be determined with an accuracy that is five to 10 times better than other typical space instruments. This is accomplished using an elaborate Radiometric Calibration Facility at Northrop Grumman that was designed specifically to support CERES calibration. Accuracies of these levels are required to allow climate scientists to determine if the Earth is in a warming or cooling trend and to measure the effect of clouds on this warming or cooling.
  • CERES is providing a systematic and thorough observation of the Earth's surface at all latitudes, which is required to accurately determine the global amount of radiation received from the sun and the amount reflected back to space.
  • The first CERES sensor was launched in 1997.

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  CONTACT: Mary Blake