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Military weather satellite mounted atop Atlas rocket
Posted: March 19, 2014

A new global weather observatory for the U.S. military was hoisted aboard its Atlas 5 rocket booster in California on Wednesday, two weeks before it is shot into space to track the world's storms.

File photo of payload lift at Vandenberg. Credit: ULA
It is known as the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 19 and it's scheduled to launch April 3 at 7:46 a.m. local time (10:46 am. EDT; 1446 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

"We will extend a half century of Defense Meteorological Satellite Program unique weather monitoring capabilities," said Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command.

Equipped with a suite of instruments, the spacecraft paints a picture of clouds and the atmosphere across the globe for military meteorologists to generate weather forecasts.

"DMSP satellites provide the only high-resolution, strike quality, guaranteed meteorological data to the DOD," said Lt. Col. Dan Daniels, commander of the 50th Operations Group Detachment 1 at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

"It's one of the most critical, cross-cutting capabilities needed to ensure mission success across the spectrum of DOD operations."

In preparation to launch DSMP 19, the encapsulated payload was driven to Space Launch Complex 3-East this morning for hoisting up into the gantry and mounting to the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

Final tip-to-tail electrical testing of the integrated payload and launch vehicle will follow this week before final readiness reviews are conducted.

The launch countdown will begin just after midnight local time on April 3.

It will be the 45th Atlas launch and the 16th for the Air Force. It is ULA's 81st launch overall and fourth of 15 this year.