Spaceflight Now: Mission Report

Air Force delays launch of weather satellite for repairs

Posted: January 10, 2001

  G-9 mission patch
The mission patch for this Titan 2 launch. Photo: 2SLS Vandenberg SEE FULL PAGE IMAGE
Next week's launch of a U.S. military weather satellite aboard a Titan 2 rocket from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base has been pushed back one day after technicians accidentally damaged a sun shield on the craft during pre-flight cleaning.

The launch is now targeted for January 19 at 1358 GMT (8:58 a.m. EST), the opening of a 10-minute window.

The shield protects against sun glare on the $193 million Defense Meteorological Satellite Program 5D-3-16 spaceraft's primary sensor -- the Operational Linescan System.

The damage occurred while the 12-foot tall satellite was undergoing final cleaning at the Space Launch Complex 4-West launch pad.

"The damage was noted by the crew performing the cleaning," said Lt Col. Grant L. Takahashi, the Air Force's deputy chief of the DMSP office's Current Satellite Systems Division.

  DMSP in pad clean room
A file image shows the last DMSP weather satellite atop its Titan 2 rocket in launch pad clean room in 1999. Photo: Lockheed Martin
"After removal and replacement of the damaged shield, the sensor was tested to confirm that there wasn't any hidden damage."

No further problems were uncovered but the extra work meant the launch would have been delayed a day. The liftoff was previously postponed three days from January 15 to double-check the craft's power-generating solar array after concerns were raised with a sister-satellite back in the Lockheed Martin factory.

DMSP satellites orbit around Earth's poles and carry a sophisticated suite of weather instruments to observe virtually the entire planet twice daily. Data from the craft is used to create global weather forecasts that military commanders and strategic planners rely upon.

The satellites can track weather systems by visible and infrared cloud-cover imagery, day or night, determine land and ocean surface temperatures and wind speed, snow coverage and precipitation on land and in clouds.

The new DMSP F16 craft will replace an aging satellite launched in March 1995.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Titan 2 (G-9)
Payload: DMSP 5D-3-F16
Launch date: Jan. 19, 2001
Launch window: 1358-1408 GMT (8:58-9:08 a.m. EST)
Launch site: SLC-4W, Vandenberg AFB, Calif.