NOAA 2002-R133
Contact: Pat Viets
NOAA News Releases 2002
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Operational control of the nation's newest polar-orbiting environmental satellite, NOAA-17, was turned over to the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on July 14. The satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on June 24.

NOAA-17 will improve weather and climate forecasting and monitor environmental events around the world. It is the third in a series of five polar-orbiting satellites with improved imaging and sounding capabilities that will operate over the next ten years.

Project engineers report that all of the spacecraft subsystem and instrument deployments were successful and that the satellite's instruments are providing detailed data without major anomalies. The series of 100 on-orbit verification tests will continue for two more weeks.

"I am pleased with the smooth checkout and expect a seamless transition into full NOAA operation within weeks," said Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "We are already receiving reports from weather services around the world indicating that the NOAA-17 direct-broadcast data is providing them with high quality images."

Both Lautenbacher and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe viewed the NOAA-17 launch. This is the first time the two federal satellite chiefs have ever witnessed a NOAA environmental satellite launch together.

Once NOAA-17 is fully operational, its search and rescue instruments will help ground stations throughout the world "listen" for distress beacons relayed through the NOAA polar and Russian Cospas satellites. The worldwide search and rescue system has saved 13,629 lives since the program begun in 1982.

For more than 40 years, NASA and NOAA have worked jointly to perfect, develop and continue the polar-orbiting program. Goddard engineers are responsible for the construction, integration, launch and verification testing of the spacecraft, instruments and unique ground equipment.

NOAA is responsible for program funding and the on-orbit operation of the multi-satellite system. NOAA also determines the need for satellite replacement. NOAA designs, develops, installs and integrates the ground system needed to acquire, process and disseminate data from satellite sensors.

NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service is the nation's primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. NOAA Satellite and Information Service operates the nation's environmental satellites, which are used for weather forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications such as fire detection, ozone monitoring and sea surface temperature measurements.

More information on the polar-orbiting program can be found on the Internet at, and