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NASA, NOAA set to launch new environmental satellite

NASA is set to launch the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES), another critical link in the development of a global Earth-observation program. The spacecraft, NOAA-N, will be launched on May 11, 2005, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

NOAA-N will replace NOAA-16, in operation since September 2000, and join NOAA-17, launched in June 2002. Once in orbit, NOAA-N will be renamed NOAA-18. NOAA maintains a constellation of two primary polar-orbiting satellites. The global data from these satellites are used extensively in NOAA’s weather and climate prediction models.

As it orbits the globe, NOAA-N will collect data about the Earth’s surface and atmosphere that are input for NOAA’s long-range climate and seasonal outlooks, including forecasts for El Nino and La Nina.

NOAA-N also has instruments used in the international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System, called COSPAS-SARSAT, which was established in 1982. NOAA polar-orbiting satellites detect emergency beacon distress signals and relay their location to ground stations, so rescue can be dispatched. SARSAT is credited with saving approximately 5,000 lives in the U.S. and more than 18,000 worldwide.

NOAA-N is the fifteenth in a series of polar-orbiting satellites dating back to 1978. NOAA-N has imaging and sounding capabilities that are broadcast around the world and recorded on board for playback over NOAA ground stations.