NOAA-17 (M) environmental satellite successfully launched

by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office

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A new environmental satellite that will improve weather forecasting and monitor environmental events around the world soared into space this morning after a picture-perfect launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-17(M) spacecraft lifted off at 11:23 a.m. PDT on an Air Force-launched Titan II rocket. Approximately six and one-half minutes later, the spacecraft separated from the Titan II second stage.

Shortly after liftoff, flight controllers tracked the launch vehicle's progress using real-time telemetry data relayed through NASA's Tracking and Date Relay Satellite System. Approximately 30 minutes after launch, controllers acquired the spacecraft through the McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, ground station and confirmed NOAA-M's solar array had successfully deployed. At 12:49 p.m. PDT controllers acquired the spacecraft at Oakhanger Station, England, and verified the spacecraft power system was nominal. NOAA-M was renamed NOAA-17 after achieving orbit.

NOAA-17 is the third in a series of five Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) with instruments that provide improved imaging and sounding capabilities and operate over the next 10 years.

Like the two previous satellites, NOAA-17's Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit has additional channels that will provide improved temperature and water vapor monitoring throughout the troposphere and the stratosphere, especially under very cloudy conditions. Its Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer includes a new sixth channel in the visible range that will be used to provide the capability to distinguish between clouds and snow/ice on the ground.

This latest series of satellites also features significantly increased weight, power, and computer memory to support the new instruments as well as improvements to the spacecraft's command system.

"We're off to a great start," said Karen Halterman, POES program manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "The spacecraft is now in orbit and all data indicate we have a healthy spacecraft."

NASA will turn operational control of the NOAA-17 spacecraft over to NOAA in 21 days. NASA's comprehensive on-orbit data and instrument verification period is expected to take about 45 days.

The NOAA-17 satellite was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., and launched for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under technical guidance and project management by the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Like other NOAA satellites, NOAA-17 will collect meteorological data and transmit the information to users around the world to enhance weather forecasting. In the United States, the data will be used primarily by NOAA's National Weather Service for its long-range weather and climate forecasts.

Data from the NOAA spacecraft are also used by researchers within NASA's Earth Science Enterprise to better understand and protect our home planet.

For more information about NOAA-17 and the polar orbiting satellites, see the following web sites: