NOAA 2005-050
Contact: John Leslie
NOAA News Releases 2005
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NOAA and NASA officials today confirmed that a new NOAA polar-orbiting environmental satellite, launched early this morning, has reached orbit. The NOAA-N satellite – now designated NOAA-18 – is critical in the development of a global Earth observation program and improving NOAA’s weather and climate forecasts and U.S. search and rescue operations. Today’s launch also starts a new era of international cooperation.

Under an agreement between NOAA and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), NOAA will provide NOAA-18 and a later satellite, NOAA-N Prime, for an afternoon orbit of the globe and carry a EUMETSAT instrument. In return, EUMETSAT will provide and launch three European-built satellites, called Metop, into morning orbits during the next 10 years, carrying key NOAA instruments. The first Metop launch is scheduled for April 2006.

“We look forward to the benefits from NOAA-18 and its contributions toward strengthening the Global Earth Observation System of Systems,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA-18 brings us a step closer to having true global coverage of the Earth’s changing environment.”

The spacecraft, procured by NASA under an interagency agreement with NOAA, was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 3:22 a.m. (PDT). NOAA-18 continues the series of NOAA Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) with improved imaging and sounding capabilities that collect data around the world.

NOAA-18 replaces NOAA-16, a POES spacecraft that had been in operation since September 2000, and joins NOAA-17, launched in June 2002. NOAA maintains a constellation of two primary polar-orbiting satellites at any time. The global data from these satellites are used extensively in NOAA’s weather and climate prediction numerical models.

As it orbits the globe, capturing valuable environmental data, NOAA-18 will help drive NOAA’s long-range climate and seasonal outlooks, including forecasts for El Niño and La Niña.

NOAA manages the POES program and establishes requirements, provides funding and distributes environmental satellite data for the United States. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., procures and manages the acquisition of POES for NOAA. NASA will transfer operational control of NOAA-18 to NOAA in 21 days. NASA's comprehensive on-orbit verification period is expected to last until approximately 45 days after today’s launch.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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