Ball Aerospace has begun integrating the infrared instrument into the national polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system (NPOESS) preparatory project (NPP) satellite.

The visible infrared imager radiometer suite (VIIRS) is the fourth of five instruments on the NPP spacecraft, which will provide detailed imagery of clouds, vegetation, snow cover, dust storms, sea surface temperature and other environmental phenomena.

NPOESS is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s low earth orbiting weather and climate monitoring system that will provide operational and long-term weather and climate data.

Nasa has developed the NPP as the mission precursor to the NPOESS mission and to provide data continuity between the earth-observing system terra and aqua missions.

NPP will also provide risk reduction for the NPOESS programme through early flight validation of NPOESS sensors.

The VIIRS instrument recently delivered by Northrop Grumman will be integrated into the spacecraft by mid-February 2010.

The spacecraft is expected to lift off on a Delta rocket in 2011.