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Launch of DMSP-19 satellite means more data for NOAA weather forecasts

April 3, 2014

The DMSP-19 spacecraft launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:46 AM PDT aboard an Atlas V rocket

Today's liftoff of the latest Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft ultimately will lead to more data flowing into NOAA's weather models that produce life-saving forecasts, according to the agency's top satellite official.

The DMSP-19 spacecraft launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:46 AM PDT aboard an Atlas V rocket. The satellite is undergoing a series of early on-orbit systems tests and is expected to be ready for operational use in six weeks.

Since the mid-1960's, the DMSP's low earth-orbiting satellites have provided the military and civilian communities with important and reliable environmental information. Each DMSP satellite has a 101-minute orbit, circling between the North and South poles and providing global coverage twice a day. The last DMSP spacecraft was launched in October 2009.

Data from these satellites can help identify, locate and determine the intensity of severe weather, including hurricanes. DMSP spacecraft also can be used to form three-dimensional cloud analyses, which are the basis for computer forecast models to meet unique military requirements.

"For years, NOAA has used DMSP data for operational weather forecasting, which has added to NOAA's continuous, robust stream of satellite data for a Weather Ready nation," said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

Additionally, DMSP satellites provide imagery of environmental features including clouds, bodies of water, snow, fire, and pollution in the visual and infrared spectra. The scanning radiometric instruments record information which helps determine cloud type and height, land and surface water temperatures, sea surface currents, ocean surface features, ice, and snow. The satellite data collected and downlinked to the ground stations are processed, interpreted by meteorologists, and used in planning and conducting U.S. military operations worldwide.

The primary command and control of the satellite is jointly managed by NOAA and the Air Force 50th Operations Group Detachment 1, both operating out of the Satellite Operations Control Center in Suitland, Md. Operations are also supported by a back-up facility located at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., under the leadership of the 6th Space Operations Squadron.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. For more information about NOAA satellites, please visit www.nesdis.noaa.gov/about_satellites.html. Join us on Facebook, and  Twitter other social media channels.