Ball imager set to ride NASA weather satellite

BOULDER — A Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. instrument essential for a new era in precipitation measurements has arrived in Japan, where it will launch aboard NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement mission.

Boulder-based Ball Aerospace’s GPM Microwave Imager is a multi-channel, conical-scanning, microwave radiometer that is part of an international satellite mission led by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Following launch in early 2014 aboard the spaceborne GPM Core Observatory, the radiometer is part of an international satellite constellation that will capture next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide every three hours, as well as unprecedented 3-D views of hurricanes and snowstorms. GPM data also will contribute to the monitoring and forecasting of weather events such as droughts, floods and hurricanes.

“Ball is proud to be part of an international satellite mission that has advanced microwave sensor capabilities to set a new standard of calibration for the scientific community,´ said Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager of Ball’s Civil Space and Technology business unit.

Roughly 10 1/2 feet tall, the GMI instrument is a powerhouse of radiometry. Rotating at 32 revolutions per minute, it will use four very stable calibration points on each revolution to calibrate the data it has scanned. Ball Aerospace designed, developed and fabricated the GMI, which is central to the mission’s success because it provides temporal sampling of rainfall accumulations and more frequent and higher-quality data collection than currently available. With less than 2 percent of the Earth’s total water volume being potable, the scientific community has long been committed to acquiring more precise and complete precipitation information.

GMI, along with Japan’s Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar, will make radiometric and radar measurements of precipitation around the world and will provide the comprehensive data needed for global rain maps and climate research products. These instruments also will provide an accurate reference for calibrating other microwave radiometers in the GPM constellation.

GMI’s design is based on successful microwave sensors built previously by Ball Aerospace, including the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C, the GEOSAT Follow-On and the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies supports critical missions for national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, the Boulder-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications.

Its parent company, Broomfield-based Ball Corp. (NYSE: BLL), supplies packaging for beverage, food and household products customers, as well as aerospace and other technologies and services primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corp. and its subsidiaries employ 15,000 people worldwide and reported 2012 sales of more than $8.7 billion.

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