Liftoff of the NPP aboard a Delta II rocket at Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Calif. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
AIR FORCE BASE, California (AP) — After a years-long delay, an
Earth-observing satellite blasted into space early Friday (October 28, 2011) on a dual
mission to improve weather forecasts and monitor climate change.
Delta 2 rocket carrying the NASA satellite lifted off shortly before 3
a.m. from the central California coast. The satellite was boosted into
an orbit 500 miles (800 km) above Earth about an hour after launch.
NASA invited a small group of Twitter followers to watch the pre-dawn launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
satellite joins a fleet already circling the planet, collecting
information about the atmosphere, oceans, and land. The latest—about the
size of a small SUV—is more advanced. It carries four new instruments
capable of making more precise observations.
Dunn, a launch director for NASA, said in streaming commentary on the
agency’s Website that the flight “went terrific” and there “is a lot of
celebration in control room right now.”
Dunn said the weather nearly perfect for the launch. The skies were clear and winds minimal.
will use the data to improve their forecasts of hurricanes and other
extreme weather while climate researchers hope to gain a better
understanding of long-term climate shifts.
satellites currently in orbit are aging and will need to be replaced.
The newest satellite is intended to be a bridge between the current
fleet and a new generation that NASA is developing for the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
$1.5 billion mission’s path to the launch pad has been rocky. It was
originally scheduled to fly in 2006, but problems during development of
several instruments led to a delay.
will spend some time checking out the satellite’s instruments before
science operations begin. Built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies
Corp. in Boulder, Colo., the satellite is expected to orbit the Earth
for five years.
SOURCE: The Associated Press
National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System
Preparatory Project, or NPP, successfully separated from the Delta II 58
minutes after launch, and the first signal was acquired by the Tracking
and Data Relay Satellite System. NPP’s solar array deployed 67 min
after launch to provide the satellite with electrical power. NPP is on
course to reach its sun-synchronous polar orbit 512 miles (824 km) above
is critical to our understanding of Earth’s processes and changes,”
says NASA Deputy Administrator, Lori Garver. “Its impact will be global
and builds on 40 years of work to understand our complex planet from
space. NPP is part of an extremely strong slate of current and future
innovative NASA science missions that will help us win the future as we
make new discoveries.”
The NPP spacecraft stands atop the Delta II rocket before it lifted off early on Friday into Earth orbit. Photo: NASA/Don Kososka, VAFB
carries five science instruments, including four new state-of-the-art
sensors, which will provide critical data to help scientists understand
the dynamics of long-term climate patterns and help meteorologists
improve short-term weather forecasts. The mission will extend more than
30 key long-term datasets NASA has been tracking, including measurements
of the ozone layer, land cover, and ice cover.
serves as a bridge mission between NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS)
of satellites and the next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System, a
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) program that will
also collect weather and climate data.
will use NPP data to extend and improve upon EOS data records. These
satellites have provided critical insights into the dynamics of the
entire Earth system, including clouds, oceans, vegetation, ice, solid
Earth, and atmosphere. NPP will allow scientists to extend the continuous
satellite record needed to detect and quantify global environmental
measurements from NPP will benefit science and society for many years
to come,” says Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science
Division. “NPP will help improve weather forecasts, enable unique
scientific insights, and allow more accurate global environmental
predictions. I’m confident that the strong partnerships forged in the
NPP program between NASA and NOAA, industry, and the research and
applications communities will ensure the success of the mission.”
satellite will be operated from the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility
in Suitland, Md. NASA will operate NPP for the first three months after
launch while the satellite and instrument are checked out. NPP
operations will then be turned over to NOAA and the JPSS program for the
remainder of the mission.
data will be transmitted once every orbit to a ground station in
Svalbard, Norway, and to direct broadcast receivers around the world.
data will be sent back to the United States via fiber optic cable to
the NOAA Suitland facility. NPP data is then processed into data records
that NASA and NOAA will make available through various data archives.
Delta II launch vehicle that delivered NPP into orbit also deployed
auxiliary payloads within 98 min after launch. The five small
“CubeSat” research payloads are the third in a series of NASA
Educational Launch of Nanosatellite missions, known as ELaNa missions.
NPP mission is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, Md., for the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission
Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The Joint Polar
Satellite System program provides the NPP ground system. NOAA will
provide operational support for the mission. Launch management is the
responsibility of the NASA Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space
Center in Florida.