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Rochester firm tests "world's most advanced" weather satellite

Courtesy photo
ITT Corporation
ITT Geospatial Systems says this super sophisticated weather satellite is basically a giant digital camera.

Maybe you’ve heard: There’s another winter storm bearing down on upstate New York.

And while this time around, the “world’s most advanced weather instrument” won’t be of much help, come 2016 the Advanced Baseline Imager will have you covered.

Rochester-based ITT Geospatial Systems is building the new weather satellite for NASA and NOAA. The company says their biggest satellite yet passed recent tests with flying colors.


"It actually is a huge leap in technology."

That’s according to Eric Webster, ITT's Director of Environmental Systems.

Webster says the new satellite will provide significantly more information, sharper images, and faster processing times compared to the current version in orbit.

ITT says the ultimate goal is to help save lives.

"Forecasters will be able to receive updated info every 30 seconds, where before it was seven-and-a-half minutes," says Webster. "And you're like, 'Well, that's not that big of a deal'. But the average tornado forecast time is about six minutes. So the refresh rate is critical, especially for your severe storms."

By 2016, the refrigerator-sized satellite will be floating 23,000 miles above the U.S., scanning the globe for hurricanes, tornadoes and, yes, crippling winter storms.

So how do you test a satellite that costs hundreds of millions of dollars?

According to Webster, you basically shake it “really hard” and make the temperature really hot and really cold. While most of that stuff is (and will continue to be) done in Rochester, the satellite itself is assembled at ITT's Fort Wayne, Ind. facility.

ITT is expected to complete the $600 million project sometime next year. Between then, and an expected late-2015 launch date, Webster says NASA and NOAA will be making sure the satellite and everything with their ground systems works right.

WXXI/Finger Lakes reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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