ATS-I December 12, 1966

40 Years of Geostationary Satellite Research and Observations
at the Space Science and Engineering Center

1953 Verner E. Suomi measured the heat budget of a corn field for his doctoral thesis from the University of Chicago. Measuring the difference between the amount of energy absorbed and the amount of energy lost in a corn field led him to thinking about Earth's heat budget.( A Man for All Seasons)
1957 In October, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I, beginning the space race between the United States and the U.S.S.R.
1957 In December, Verner Suomi and Robert Parent’s radiometer included in payload of Vanguard TV-3, but the satellite exploded seconds after launch.
1958 The United States successfully launched its first satellite, Explorer-1, on 31 January 1958.
1958 Congress passed the Space Act, creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
1959 Flat plate radiometer designed by V.E. Suomi and R.J. Parent for the first Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) flew on Explorer-7. The flat plate radiometer (FPR) system was designed to provide a measurement of the global distribution of reflected solar and longwave radiation leaving the earth. With this experiment, Suomi established the important role played by clouds in absorbing radiated solar energy, setting the stage for integration of satellites into the field of meteorology (A Man for All Seasons)
1965 Funding from NASA and the NSF established the Space Science and Engineering Center.
1966 ATS-I, the first geostationary satellite, launched on 6 December 1966 (LST) or 7 December 1966 (UTC). Its payload was Suomi’s Spin Scan Cloudcover Camera (SSCC). The launch of ATS-I into geosynchronous Earth orbit pioneered continuous viewing of weather from space. Suomi understood the benefits that could be gained by observing a single weather phenomenon at frequent intervals. These kinds of observations were not possible using the early, low polar-orbiting satellites.
1967 ATS-III launched on 5 November 1967. It sent the first color images from the Multicolor Spin Scan Cloudcover Camera (MSSCC). The ATS-III was the only geostationary satellite with a blue channel which was, and still is, a unique feature. The camera provided color pictures for approximately three months at which time the red and blue channels failed. The system continued to provide black-and-white pictures until 11 December 1974. [ATS site] NASA photo showing scientists standing around satellite.
1968 Display software developed at SSEC allowing direct interface with ATS image archive.
1970 High-quality ATS data disseminated world-wide
1972 Introduction of Man-computer Interactive Data Access System (McIDAS): accurate cloud motion information produced from satellite images by a prototype McIDAS. (Hibbard: McIDAS complemented Suomi’s Spin-Scan Camera in geosynchronous orbit, as a system for acquiring, storing, navigating (aligning images with earth locations) and animating images from his satellites. The combination of these two inventions enabled people to see animated cloud images, as billions now do via TV weather programs. An interesting anecdote is that Suomi saw instant replays on football programs and sought out the technology used for that, as a way to animate satellite images.)

McIDAS was the first interactive meteorology system, combining satellite images with data from “conventional” sources such as surface observations and rawinsonde balloons. The system enabled various data analyses, including estimating winds from time sequences of satellite cloud images (NASA photo).

1974 Success of the ATS program led to NASA's Synchronous Meteorological Satellite (SMS) with IR camera, launched on 17 May 1974.
1974 Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP) Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE), benefitted from the IR camera that Suomi recommended.
1974 By applying video-processing capability of McIDAS, nowcasting concept developed emphasizing mesoscale atmospheric features for better current forecasts.
1975 SMS-2 launched on 6 February 1975.
1975 GOES-1 launched on 16 October 1975 (NOAA Photo Library).
1977 Meteosat provided first water vapor imager on 23 November 1977.
1977 GOES-2 launched on 16 June 1977 aboard Delta Launch Vehicle 131 (NOAA Photo Library).
1978 SSEC adapted videocassette recorder to archive digital satellite data. McIDAS had, as far as we know (Hibbard) the first archive of satellite images using “slant track” and then UMATIC video tape drives.
1978 First GARP Global Experiment (FGGE) planned for 1978-1979. SSEC was selected to archive satellite wind vectors from cloud heights. Suomi played key organizing role.
1978 GOES-3 launched 15 June 1978 (NOAA Photo Library)
1979 SSEC designated national archive for GOES data.
1979 UW-SSEC led the design of the High-resolution Interferometer Sounder (HIS), the first hyperspectral sounder for GOES, in partnership with industry (SBRC/Bomem), NOAA, and NASA.  This Phase A design effort proved the feasibility of this important advance for improving vertical resolution, and was twice very close to being implemented into operations in the 1980s (as what became the GOES-8 sounder) and 90s (as the G-HIS modification to the filter radiometer sounder).
1980 Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) founded by Dr. Suomi through a MOU with NOAA and NASA. William L. Smith became its first director.
1980 GOES-4 launched 9 September 1980, was first geostationary satellite to provide continuous vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature and moisture. The instrument was a modification of the original spin-scan design with additional detectors for proper spectral bands [Man for All Seasons]. The Visible Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer (VISSR) Atmospheric Sounder (VAS) became the first geostationary sounder. Here, a scientist works on the model satellite before launch.
1980 McIDAS installations continued to expand, for example, McIDAS support and system provided to National Hurricane Center, NESDIS’ World Weather Building, and space shuttle launches supported with real-time weather data by McIDAS.
1981 GOES-5 launched 22 May 1981 and deactivated in 1990 (NOAA Photo Library).
1983 GOES-6 launched 28 April 1983 (NOAA Photo Library).
1983 VAS data incorporated into many new products for the National Weather Service.
1986 GOES-G did not reach operational orbit. Seconds into the launch the first stage engine shut down, necessitating destruction (NOAA Photo Library).
1987 GOES-7 launched 26 February 1987, with additional search and rescue signal detection ability.
1988 SSEC participated in software and instrument development for next-generation geostationary satellites.
1991 World-wide network of McIDAS sites continued to expand.
1992 VAS cloud products used hourly by the National Weather Service.
1994 GOES-8 launched 13 April 1994 and is first GOES launched on a three axis stable platform (NOAA Photo Library). SSEC was very involved with ingestors, simulations and technical expertise.
  While the original spin-scan design is no longer in use in the United States, Suomi's basic concept was adopted for many satellites and space probes built for NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the European Space Agency, the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the Chinese National Satellite Meteorological Center (A Man for all Seasons)
1995 GOES-9 launched 23 May 1995 and deactivated in July 1998 (NOAA Photo Library).
1997 GOES-10 launched 25 April 1997.
1999 Data Center archived Meteosat-7 and Meteosat-5 imagery and old GOES videotape inventory made available on the web.
1999 SSEC helped define next generation GOES imager/sounder.
1999 1999-present:  The GIFTS (Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer) was designed and built to offer revolutionary new sounding capabilities with a partnership between Utah State Space Dynamic Laboratory, NASA Langley Research Center, NOAA, and UW-SSEC/CIMSS.  Much of the technical groundwork and the first systems design was performed at the UW.  We hope to find a way to get GIFTS in orbit by 2011.
2000 GOES-11 launched 3 May 2000. First official visible channel image from GOES-11 posted on SSEC web site on 17 May.
2001 GOES-12 launched 23 July 2001 (NASA Photo) and is first GOES to operate a SXI-type instrument. First GOES-12 visible image released by SSEC on 12 August 2001.
2001 Data Center added data from China’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites.
2001 New geostationary satellite browser provided imagery for five geostationary satellites with animation and zoom capability.
2001 CIMSS and NOAA’s Advanced Satellite Products Team (ASPT) participated in GOES-12 prelaunch activities and performed the GOES-12 science tests: checked data quality, produced products from data stream and compared them to those from other satellites, investigated impact of new bands, posted hourly displays of all 19 sounder channels.
2002 EUMETSAT launched SERVI on Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) with 12 channels [Menzel timeline]
2004 JAMI [Menzel timeline]
2006 GOES-13 launched on 24 May 2006 (NASA Photo). First full-disk image archived by SSEC Data Center on 22 June 2006.
SSEC CIMSS University of Wisconsin
Last updated Nov 13th, 2006
by SSEC Webmaster