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Published:June 11th, 2007 06:11 EST
NOAA, GSA Officially Open New Environmental Satellite Center

NOAA, GSA Officially Open New Environmental Satellite Center

By SOP newswire

The new home for NOAA's around-the-clock, environmental satellite operations, which provides data critical for weather and climate prediction, was officially opened today at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Suitland, Md. Top leaders from NOAA, the U.S. General Services Administration and several U.S. Congressional representatives from Maryland, said the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility (NSOF) signifies America's solid commitment to providing the best possible environmental satellite services.

"The NOAA Satellite Operations Facility is a first-class center, with first-class technology and operations that supply essential satellite data to forecasters in order to produce the most accurate projections possible. Such a facility has a significant role in, for example, predicting where hurricanes will form, and when and where they will strike," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

Tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and East Pacific, are continuously monitored by NOAA's geostationary (GOES) weather satellites and the resulting satellite imagery are utilized by National Hurricane Center forecasters and are available to the media and the public. Hundreds of images are taken of a given storm.

Each day, NSOF processes more than 16 billion bytes of environmental satellite data from NOAA's geostationary and polar-orbiting spacecraft, and the Department of Defense's Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). The NOAA National Weather Service uses these data for constant tracking of severe weather, and as inputs into models for medium to long range forecasts for weather and tracking climate change. NSOF, which spans 208,271 gross square feet, supports more than $50 million of high technology equipment, including 16 antennas that control more than $4.7 billion worth of environmental spacecraft.

"NOAA and its employees are world-class - from the researchers to the scientists, forecasters and satellite experts. They are working everyday to save lives and livelihoods. The nation depends on them to help local weather forecasters get it right so our citizens can secure their property and protect their families, and to assist in search and rescue operations for lost mariners," said Senator Barbara A. Mikulski. "They deserve a world-class facility so they can do their job and meet NOAA's mission and mandate."

"This remarkable facility is the culmination of a successful partnership between NOAA, the GSA, Prince George's County, and private-sector partners, giving us the opportunity to better monitor global climate change and its impact on Maryland," said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin. "Additionally, its environmentally friendly design demonstrates that the federal government can be a leader in changing the way Americans think about constructing energy efficient buildings."

NSOF, situated on the Suitland Federal Center campus, was designed by the firm Morphosis/Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering, P.C., and has already received several awards, including the GSA Design Award for 2002. Thom Mayne, head of Morphosis, received the industry's coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize for NSOF's design. A key design feature of NSOF, which is mostly located underground, is the grass roof, covering 146,000 square feet.

At a total cost of $81 million, including both NOAA and GSA funding, NSOF houses 549 employees consisting of personnel from NOAA, Department of Defense, U.S. Coast Guard, NASA and government contractors. Operations based at NSOF include: NOAA's Satellite Operations Control Center, which provides command, control and communications for NOAA's satellites and DMSP; a computer center that processes the satellite data; the U.S. Mission Control Center for the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking program, called COSPAS-SARSAT, and the National Ice Center, operated by NOAA, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.

NSOF is also gearing up to provide support for NOAA's next generation satellite series- the National Polar-orbiting Operational Satellite System, or NPOESS, and GOES-R.

"With the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility, NOAA will continue as a leader in satellite operations that provide real benefits to each American," said Mary E. Kizca, assistant administrator for the NOAA Satellite and Information Service.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.