Newest USAF Environmental Satellite Launched
The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F-18 Block 5D-3 spacecraft, built under contract for the U.S. Air Force by Lockheed Martin, was launched this morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. at 9:12 am PDT.
The Block 5D-3 series accommodates larger sensor payloads than earlier generations. They also feature a larger capability power subsystem; a more powerful on-board computer with increased memory -- allowing greater spacecraft autonomy -- and increased battery capacity that extends the mean mission duration. Starting with F-17, the attitude control subsystem has also been enhanced with the integration of a second inertial measurement unit using ring laser, versus mechanical, gyros to provide greater precision pointing flexibility.
DMSP is used for strategic and tactical weather prediction to aid the U.S. military in planning operations at sea, on land and in the air. Equipped with a sophisticated sensor suite that can image visible and infrared cloud cover and measure precipitation, surface temperature, and soil moisture, the satellite collects specialized global meteorological, oceanographic, and solar-geophysical information in all weather conditions. The DMSP constellation comprises two spacecraft in near-polar orbits, C3 (command, control and communications), user terminals and weather centers. DMSP F-18 was launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.