On September 6, 2003, the NOAA N-Prime satellite fell to floor of the factory where it was being assembled, and suffered significant damage. But now, over five years later, the satellite that perhaps should have the nickname of “Phoenix” is ready to head into polar orbit around the Earth to improve weather forecasting and monitor environmental events around the world. Liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California is scheduled for early Wednesday morning (Feb. 4) at 2:22 a.m. PST (5:22 a.m. EST; 1022 GMT), on board a Delta 2 rocket. NOAA N-Prime will provide a continuity of service, as well as restoring degraded service from older weather forecasting satellites.
UPDATE: The launch of the NOAA-N Prime weather satellite was scrubbed early on Feb. 4 when a launch pad gaseous nitrogen pressurization system failed. This system maintains pressurization and purges to various systems of the Delta II rocket prior to launch. Immediate repair to this system is being undertaken.
The next launch attempt will be no earlier than Thursday, Feb. 5 at 2:22 a.m. PST., weather permitting.
After the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s N-Prime satellite tipped over while on a holding cart, engineers didn’t know if the satellite would be salvageable. It took several months to survey the damage and inventory spare parts to make sure the satellite could be rebuilt, according to Gary Davis, Director of the Office of Systems Development at NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, interviewed for an article in Spaceflightnow.com.
“We put together a philosophy that, without question, if we had a spare part, we would swap it out. If we didn’t have a spare part, we would attempt to fix. If we couldn’t fix, then we would have to buy new,” Davis said.
About 75 percent of the craft’s components were replaced with new or spare hardware. Engineers recertified components they decided to keep on the spacecraft, and the company that built the satellite, Lockheed Martin, disassembled the satellite and conducted vibration and thermal tests on every part engineers planned to reuse.
NOAA-N Prime is the fifth and last in the current series of five polar-orbiting satellites with improved imaging and sounding capabilities.
The satellite will collect meteorological data and transmit the information to NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, which processes the data for input to the National Weather Service for its long-range weather and climate forecasts. Forecasters worldwide also will be able to access the satellite’s images and data.
NOAA-N Prime has sensors that will be used in the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System to monitor for distress signals around the world.