The Coriolis mission
Posted: December 12, 2002

The Coriolis satellite. Photo: Naval Research Laboratory
The Air Force Coriolis mission will fly the Navy Windsat microwave polarimetric radiometer and Air Force Solar Mass Ejection Imager in a low Earth, sun synchronous orbit. The Windsat radiometer will provide important meteorological information on wind speed and direction at or near the surface of the ocean and the Solar Mass Ejection Imager will provide valuable early warning of coronal mass ejections that affect communications and power distribution systems here on earth.

The Coriolis mission is being assembled and launched by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Detachment 12 Space Test Program Office at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico using a refurbished Lockheed Martin Titan 2 booster and a Spectrum Astro spacecraft bus. Spectrum Astro is integrating the spacecraft bus and payloads with the Titan 2 for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Coriolis mission operations will be conducted by Detachment 12's, Vehicle Operations Directorate, Research, Development, Test & Evaluation Support Complex at Kirtland Air Force Base. After the first year, the Naval Satellite Operations Center at Point Mugu will conduct joint flight operations with Blossom Point for the remainder of the mission.

The Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command is providing the Naval Research Lab built Windsat polarimetric microwave radiometer. This radiometer is an important step in reducing risks associated with the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System by proving the concept of using a space-based radiometer for measuring ocean surface wind speed and direction. Windsat will demonstrate the viability of using polarimetry to measure the wind vector from space and provide operationally usable tactical information to Navy units. The payload provides risk reduction data that the NPOESS Integrated Program Office (NOAA / NASA / Air Force / Navy) will use in the development of the Conical Microwave Imager Sounder (CMIS). Windsat is the primary payload on the Coriolis mission and is funded by the Navy and NPOESS IPO.

The Air Force Research Lab at Hanscom AFB, Mass., is providing the Solar Mass Ejection Imager that will improve space weather forecasts by monitoring and warning of impending geomagnetic storms solar plasma and magnetic fields. A geomagnetic storm can cause a wide variety of damaging effects to military and civilian spacecraft, ground-based communications and power distribution systems, degraded satellite communication and surveillance systems, increased drag and deterioration of satellite altitude control. Coronal Mass Ejections, known as CMEs, consist of solar plasma and embedded magnetic fields traveling at speeds of up to 1,000 km/second (2,236,936 miles/hour). Advanced warning of such storms would permit initiation of preventive measures to mitigate these effects. At present, prediction of even moderate geomagnetic storms is difficult. SMEI should provide advanced warning of one to three days of impending geomagnetic storms by tracking CMEs from the Sun to near-Earth space.

SMEI's all-sky images will also greatly aid astronomers and astrophysicists in understanding solar processes and detecting astronomical phenomena. SMEI will be able to observe near-earth objects and extra-solar planetary transits.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Titan 2 (G-4)
Payload: Coriolis
Launch date: Dec. 15, 2002
Launch window: 1418-1433 GMT (9:18-9:33 a.m. EST)
Launch site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Satellite broadcast: none

Pre-launch briefing
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.

Titan 2 - Description of the former ICBM missile converted to a space launch vehicle.

Coriolis - General overview of the satellite and its two instruments.

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