NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, MARYLAND – Blastoff of the powerful and revolutionary new NASA/JAXA rain and snow precipitation measurement satellite atop a Japanese rocket from a tiny offshore island launch pad is now less than 24 hours away on Thursday, Feb. 27, EST (Feb. 28 JST).
The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory aimed at improving forecasts of extreme weather and climate change research has been given a green light for launch atop a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island off southern Japan.
Roll out of the H-IIA launch vehicle from the Vehicle Assembly Building is scheduled for this evening, Feb. 26 at 11 p.m. EST.
Update: rocket rolled out. Photo below, plus watch streaming NASA TV below.
Following the Launch Readiness Review, mission managers approved the GO for liftoff.
Japanese team members also prayed at a Shinto ceremony for blessings for a successful launch at the Ebisu Shrine, the first shrine in a traditional San-ja Mairi, or Three Shrine Pilgrimage on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 – see photo below.
However, the team also set a newly revised launch time of 1:37 p.m. EST (18:37 UTC, and Feb. 28 at 3:37 a.m. JST).
Mission managers adjusted the H-IIA launch time after concerns raised by a collision avoidance analysis between the GPM spacecraft and the International Space Station (ISS).
GPM will fly at an altitude of 253 miles (407 kilometers) above Earth – quite similar to the ISS.
It’s coverage runs over virtually the entire populated globe from 65 N to 65 S latitudes.
NASA plans live coverage of the launch on Feb. 27 beginning at 12 noon EST on NASA Television.
It will be streamed live at: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv
The $933 Million observatory is a joint venture between the US and Japanese space agencies, NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
GPM has a one-hour launch window. In case of any delays, the team will be required to conduct a thorough new collision avoidance analysis to ensure safety.
Weather forecast is excellent at this time.
Watch this GPM Launch animation:
Video caption: NASA/JAXA GPM Core Observatory Launch Animation
GPM is a next-generation satellite that will provide global, near real time observations of rain and snow from space. Such data is long awaited by climate scientists and weather forecasters.
It will open a new revolutionary era in global weather observing and climate science. Therefore it will have a direct impact on society and people’s daily lives worldwide.
The mission will significantly advance our understanding of Earth’s water and energy cycles and improve forecasting of extreme weather events.
The 3850 kilogram GPM satellite is equipped with two instruments – an advanced, higher resolution dual -frequency precipitation (DPR) radar instrument (Ku and Ka band) built by JAXA in Japan and the GPM microwave imager (GMI) built by Ball Aerospace in the US.
“The GPM satellite was built in house at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland,” Art Azarbarzin, GPM project manager, told Universe Today during my exclusive up-close clean room inspection tour of the huge satellite as final processing was underway.
Researchers will use the GPM measurements to study climate change, freshwater resources, floods and droughts, and hurricane formation and tracking.
“GPM will join a worldwide constellation of current and planned satellites,” Azarbarzin told me during an interview in the Goddard cleanroom beside GPM.
“GPM is the direct follow-up to the currently orbiting TRMM satellite,” Azarbarzin explained.
“TRMM is reaching the end of its usable lifetime. After GPM launches we hope it has some overlap with observations from TRMM.”
“The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) observatory will provide high resolution global measurements of rain and snow every 3 hours,” Dalia Kirschbaum, GPM research scientist, told me during an interview at Goddard.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing GPM reports and on-site coverage at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
And watch for Ken’s continuing planetary and human spaceflight news about Curiosity, Opportunity, Chang’e-3, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, LADEE, MAVEN, MOM, Mars, Orion and more.