Military Satellite Launched After 15-Year Hold
Send a link to a friend
[April 04, 2014]
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) — A U.S.
military weather satellite, refurbished after more than a decade in
storage, blasted off aboard an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket from Vandenberg
Air Force Base in California on Thursday, a live webcast of the launch
The sleek, 191-foot-tall (58-meter) rocket, built by United Launch
Alliance, lifted off at 10:46 a.m. EDT to put the Defense
Meteorological Satellite Program or DMSP spacecraft into a
530-mile-high orbit passing over Earth's poles. United Launch
Alliance is a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
The $518 million satellite, known as DMSP-19 and built by Lockheed
Martin, joins six other operational DMSP satellites already in
The U.S. Air Force was prepared to launch DMSP-19 about 15 years
ago, but the satellites in orbit were lasting much longer than
expected so it went into storage instead, said Scott Larrimore,
weather program director at the Air Force's Space and Missile
Systems Center in Los Angeles.
The same fate may await the 20th and final DMSP satellite, which is
being built now and targeted to launch in 2020. The Air Force,
however, is mulling whether to fly it at all or launch it early to
avoid costly storage fees, among other options, Larrimore told
reporters during a pre-launch conference call on March 27.
That discussion is part of a larger effort to reassess military
space programs in an attempt to cut costs, take advantage of new
technologies and partner with other agencies when possible, he
The U.S. Air Force already shares data with the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration and will be stepping up the partnership
in a new generation of weather satellites designed to serve both
military and civilian needs.
It also is looking into a supplemental satellite program that can
fly on smaller rockets, such as Orbital Sciences Corp's Minotaur.
[to top of second column]
DMSP-19, which is designed to last five years, is equipped with
visible light and infrared cameras to image clouds — day and night — and sensors to measure precipitation, temperatures and soil
moisture. The DMSP satellites also collect data about the oceans,
solar storms that affect Earth and other global meteorological
"Weather is a vital element of well-planned missions," said Lockheed
Martin program director Sue Stretch. "High winds limit aircraft;
storms threaten ships; and low-visibility can alter troop movements.
The data the DMSP provides is essential to mission success."
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.