A Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Block 5D-3 spacecraft, built under contract for the U.S. Air Force by Lockheed Martin, completed on- orbit checkout, was declared operational and turned over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for operations. The Flight 16 (F16) DMSP satellite was launched Oct. 18 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on a Lockheed Martin-supplied Titan II launch vehicle. During the past 30 days the DMSP Early-Orbit Team at the NOAA Space Operations Control Center (SOCC) in Suitland, Md. successfully completed on-orbit checkout of the spacecraft and instruments. Having been declared operational, the satellite was turned over to the National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Integrated Program Office (IPO). The IPO Assistant Director of Operations then delegated F16 command authority to the NOAA Office of Satellite Operations. The F16 DMSP satellite is a Block 5D-3 series that accommodates larger and more advanced sensor payloads than earlier generations. They also feature a more advanced attitude control system for precision pointing; a more powerful on-board computer with increased memory — allowing greater spacecraft autonomy; a higher rate command link for shorter ground contact times; and increased battery capacity that prolongs the mission duration.
DMSP, operated by NOAA, 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 create visible and infrared images of cloud cover, the satellite collects specialized 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. Currently, four additional Block 5D-3 satellites are maintained at Space Systems’ operations in Sunnyvale for storage, functional testing and upgrading. The spacecraft are shipped to Vandenberg for launch when requested by the Air Force. Now in its fourth decade of service, DMSP has proven invaluable in scheduling and protecting military operations on land, at sea and in the air.