NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER, MARYLAND – Weather researchers and forecasters worldwide are gushing with excitement in the final days leading to blastoff of the powerful, new Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory – built by NASA in a joint effort with Japan.
GPM is a next-generation satellite that will provide global, near real time observations of rain and snow from space and thereby 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 team is counting down to liftoff in less than 5 days, on Feb. 27 at 1:07 PM EST from the Tanegashima Space Center, on Tanegashima Island off southern Japan, atop the highly reliable Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket.
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The GPM launch to low Earth orbit was delayed by both natural and manmade disasters – namely the 2011 Fukushima earthquake in Japan as well as the ridiculous US government shutdown in Oct. 2013. That’s the same foolish shutdown that also delayed NASA’s new MAVEN Mars orbiter and numerous other US space & science projects.
The $933 Million mission is a joint venture between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Japan’s space agency.
The mission will significantly advance our understanding of Earth’s water and energy cycles and improve forecasting of extreme weather events.
It is equipped with 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.
Shortly after my tour of GPM, the 3850 kilogram satellite was carefully packed up for shipment to the Japanese launch site.
“GPM will join a worldwide constellation of current and planned satellites,” Azarbarzin told me during an interview in the Goddard cleanroom with GPM.
The GPM observatory will replace the aging NASA/JAXA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), satellite launched back in 1997.
“GPM is the direct follow-up to the currently orbiting TRMM satellite,” Azarbarzin explained.
“TRMM is reaching the end of its usable lifetime. GPM launches on February 27, 2014 and 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.
It is vital to continuing the TRMM measurements and will help provide improved forecasts and advance warning of extreme super storms like Hurricane Sandy and Super Typhoon Haiyan, Azarbarzin and Kirschbaum explained.
Researchers will use the GPM measurements to study climate change, freshwater resources, floods and droughts, and hurricane formation and tracking.
“The water-cycle, so familiar to all school-age young scientists, is one of the most interesting, dynamic, and important elements in our studies of the Earth’s weather and climate,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, in a statement.
“GPM will provide scientists and forecasters critical information to help us understand and cope with future extreme weather events and fresh water resources.”
NASA TV will carry the launch live with commentary starting at 12 Noon EST on Feb. 27.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing GPM reports and onsite 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.