February 27, 2014
NASA Weather And Climate Tracking Satellite Has Successful Launch
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Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NASA launched its Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on Thursday (Feb 27).
The new spacecraft will be another eye-in-the-sky for NASA and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) to help take measurements on rain and snowfall. GPM will eventually help scientists keep track of future extreme weather events and manage fresh water resources.
With the successful launch, the spacecraft is now en route to lock-in to its orbit 253 miles above the Earth where it will be inclined 65-degrees to the equator. This orbit will allow the satellite to monitor precipitation across the Earth, from the Arctic to the Antarctic circles.
"The kind of data we'll get from the GPM network is unprecedented," Gail Skofronick-Jackson, GPM project scientist at Goddard, said in a statement. "We'll be able to observe detailed characteristics of rain and snow systems that are extremely important for improving weather and climate forecasts."
NASA will not begin normal operations with GPM until towards the end of April or early May. After it goes through all its system checks in orbit, the spacecraft will begin downlinking data through NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System to the space agency’s Precipitation Processing Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
GPM launched from the small island of Tanegashima off the southern coast of Kyushu, which is the southernmost of Japan’s four big islands. The island is just 35 miles long and 9 miles wide, and is covered in sugar cane and sweet potato farms.
The US space agency partnered with the JAXA on this mission, which rode to space aboard JAXA’s H-IIA rocket. This rocket experienced two launch failures in the late 1990s, but GPM rode aboard an improved design that began successful launches in 2001.
GPM has a precipitation radar and microwave imager that will be able to see deep into clouds and detect small particles of rain, ice and snow. Its Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar will be able to create 3D profiles of precipitation and reveal the inner workings of a cloud's storm systems. The GPM Microwave Imager aboard the spacecraft will measure heavy and moderate rain, as well as light rain and snow.
NASA plans to also use the spacecraft to help manage and monitor water resources in drought-stricken places like California. GPM data will help people at the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) improve forecast modeling to better assess water resources, monitor drought conditions and water supplies.
“Over the past two decades, NASA has developed capabilities to measure and provide useful information for all components of Earth’s freshwater resources worldwide,” Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington, said in a statement. “Working with partners like DWR, we are leveraging NASA’s unique Earth monitoring tools and science expertise to help managers address the state’s water management challenges.”