Measurement-based specification of the upper atmosphere system and its response to solar and lower atmospheric drivers. The upper atmosphere is operationally important because of the drag it exerts on low Earth orbit satellites, and because of its fundamental influence on the ionosphere.
These empirical models are key components of upper atmospheric research and operations for:

  • Specification and prediction of the environment;
  • Benchmark for calibrating and validating new measurements and measurement techniques;
  • Interpolation and extrapolation of data; and,
  • Initial and/or boundary condition for general circulation models.


  • Collect all available contemporary and historical upper atmospheric data (most extensively from DoD, NASA, NSF)
  • Rigorous statistical analysis of the systematic response of the data to key drivers and variables
  • Encapsulate the behavior of the data in a user-friendly model with important physical constraints
  • Model validation; identification of biases among data sets and measurement techniques
  • Ground-to-Space HPC real-time atmospheric specification merges operational lower atmospheric meteorology with NRL’s upper atmospheric empirical models


  • Provide whole-atmosphere models: NRLMSISE-00 model of total density, temperature and composition; HWM07 model of winds, 0-500 km altitude; G2S real-time atmospheric specification
  • These models are used operationally by AFWA, DMSP, SMDC, AFTAC, NNSA, and many others. MSIS is also in an iPhone app, the MATLAB Aerospace Engineering Toolbox, & AGI Satellite Toolkit
  • The models are used extensively by space weather research communities; MSIS is the #1 cited model in JGR – Space Physics
  • NRLMSISE-00 and HWM07 are the COSPAR international Standard Reference Atmosphere (CIRA); demonstrated improvements over earlier models, especially in the lower thermosphere and for geomagnetic storm effects