Advanced Polar Operational Environmental Satellite Ready For Launch

A new NOAA polar-orbiting environmental satellite, set to launch next month, will support NOAA’s weather and ocean forecasts, including long-range climate predictions for El Niño and La Niña and support U.S. search and rescue operations. The new spacecraft – NOAA-N Prime – is scheduled to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Feb. 4, 2009 at 2:22 a.m. PST.

“There is a growing demand for reliable coverage and accurate data from satellites to help us understand what’s happening in the environment,” said Mary E. Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. “This spacecraft will help meet those requirements.”

As an example, Kicza cited the Advanced Data Collection System (ADCS) onboard the satellite that will relay meteorological and oceanographic data – even track migration patterns of wildlife – to help researchers improve their study of Earth’s environment. It’s the first time the ADCS will be flown on a NOAA satellite.

Once in orbit, NOAA-N Prime will be called NOAA-19, the latest in the series of NOAA polar-orbiting environmental satellites that have served the nation. It will circle the globe in an afternoon orbit, capturing valuable environmental data that will help support NOAA’s long-range seasonal outlooks.

“NOAA-N Prime data will help us monitor current conditions in the atmosphere and oceans and keep tabs on long-term climate trends,” said Wayne Higgins, director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “These data are increasingly important in polar regions, given the potential effects of a warming climate on the polar ice cap and sea ice extent.”

NOAA is working closely with the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) to ensure seamless satellite coverage. Under an agreement, NOAA’s two operational polar-orbiting satellites – NOAA-18 and N Prime – are carrying a EUMETSAT instrument. In return, through 2020, EUMETSAT is carrying key NOAA instruments on board its European-built MetOp satellites, which fly in morning orbits.

NOAA-N Prime also will contribute to the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS. GEOSS is an ongoing effort among more than 70 nations to develop a worldwide network to monitor the world’s changing climate.

Additionally, NOAA-N Prime will be a part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking system called SARSAT. NOAA satellites are able to quickly detect distress signals from emergency beacons and have supported more than 6,000 rescues in the United States and its surrounding waters since 1982.

NOAA manages the POES program and establishes requirements, provides all funding and distributes environmental satellite data for the United States. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., procures and manages the development and launch of NOAA polar-orbiting satellites on a cost reimbursable basis. Twenty-one days after NOAA-N Prime is launched, NASA will transfer operational control of the satellite to NOAA. NASA’s comprehensive on-orbit verification period likely will last up to 45 days after the launch.

For more information about NOAA-N Prime, including a fact sheet detailing the instruments and photos of the satellite, visit the N Prime Satellite Web page.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

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