About SSEC

Our story began with a desire to observe the Earth's atmosphere from space. Professors Verner E. Suomi (Meteorology) and Robert J. Parent (Electrical Engineering), SSEC's founders, developed the spin-scan camera in the 1960s to do just that. From these beginnings nearly 50 years ago, the Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) has grown in its dedication to cutting-edge research in earth and space science.

Positioned within the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, SSEC is a research and development center focusing on geophysical research and technology to enhance our understanding of the atmosphere of Earth, the other planets in our Solar System, and the cosmos. We develop and demonstrate new observing systems for spacecraft, aircraft, and ground-based platforms. We receive, manage and distribute significant amounts of geophysical data and develop software to visualize and manipulate these data to gain insight into weather and climate, as well as atmospheric processes and phenomena. In addition to conducting our own research, producing algorithms, creating products and improving forecast models, we are committed to sharing our efforts, our  tools and our knowledge with the larger research community and scientists around the world.

SSEC Interim Director Dr. Steve Ackerman continues to strengthen SSEC's national and international role in instrument development and applications science. SSEC is  helping to design, test and deploy new instruments that utilize high spectral resolution measurements of the earth system that will greatly improve severe weather detection and weather forecast accuracy.

The cornerstone of SSEC's research success are the Principal Investigators who compete nationally and internationally for peer reviewed funding to conduct their science and engineering projects.  SSEC is organized around these project goals with over 100 projects ongoing at any one time. Supporting these diverse research programs are over 150 professional staff, scientists, engineers, technicians, computer and software specialists, administrative and general support staff. Approximately 40 graduate and undergraduate students are integrated into the SSEC project teams. While SSEC supports the research activities of graduate students enrolled in degree-granting programs, SSEC does not grant degrees.

A key SSEC strength that supports much of our work is the SSEC Data Center.  Designed to acquire environmental satellite data from around the world in real time (i.e., as the measurements are taken), the Data Center has extensive current and archived data holdings, which allow SSEC scientists to conduct their research, test their algorithms and collaborate with key government warning and forecast centers to insure the very latest techniques and products are available to our national frontline forecasters. In addition, an array of powerful cluster computing systems provide the capability for large volume data processing and forecast model testing.

Federal agencies provide most of SSEC's financial support through the competitive proposal process, with modest amounts from other universities and governments,.  SSEC also has strong ties with private sector aerospace companies developing remote sensing technologies.

"Sky's the Limit" (Youtube Video)

Major SSEC Initiatives

Noted Scientific Work

  • satellite-based and other weather observing instruments
  • remote sensing applications in earth and atmospheric science
  • spaceflight instrumentation
  • planetary meteorology
  • data analysis and visualization
  • diagnostic and numerical studies of the atmosphere

Associated Organizations

For more information about SSEC and its services, contact SSEC Communications at (608) 262-8164 or email using our Contact Form.