Friday, October 28, 2011

NASA launches trailblazing weather/climate satellite

MSNBC: After a five-year delay, NASA launched an Earth-observing satellite on Friday to test new technologies aimed at improving weather forecasts and monitoring climate change. The $1.5 billion mission comes amid a year of weather extremes, ranging from the Midwest tornado outbreak to the Southwest wildfires to hurricane-caused flooding in New England.

"We've already had 10 separate weather events, each inflicting at least $1 billion in damages," said Louis Uccellini of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The satellite lifted off before dawn from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., aboard a Delta 2 rocket that sent it toward an orbit some 500 miles high. "Smooth ride," flight commentator Steve Agid reported during the ascent.

The space agency already has a fleet of satellites circling the Earth, taking measurements of the atmosphere, clouds and oceans. But many are aging and need replacement. The latest — about the size of a small school bus — is more sophisticated. It carries five different types of instruments to collect environmental data, including four that never before have flown into space.

One of the satellite's main jobs is to test key technologies that will be used by next-generation satellites set to launch in a few years....

The NPP satellite vertical in the cleanroom after EMI, in January 2011

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