NOAA-17 Launch

From: Brian Webb (
Date: Sun Jun 23 2002 - 11:50:47 EDT

Hi All:

The NOAA-17 spacecraft is scheduled for launch tomorrow from Vandenberg AFB.
Here are the pariculars:

Launch Date (UTC): 2002 June 24
Launch Time (UTC): 18:22 UTC.
Orbital Inclination (deg.): 98.7465
Orbital Altitude (nautical miles): 450
Orbital Period (min.): 101.35


Brian Webb


			 Brian Webb, KD6NRP
		     Ventura County, California
	      Web Site:
				       2002 June 23 (Sunday) 08:45 PDT
A Titan II missile carrying an environmental satellite is scheduled
for launch from Vandenberg AFB tomorrow morning, June 24th. The
vehicle is scheduled to lift off from Space Launch Complex 4-West at
11:22 PDT, the start of a 10-minute launch window. The Titan will
climb steeply at first, and then begin to gradually turn southward. If
all goes according to plan, the NOAA-17 spacecraft will be inserted
into a polar orbit.

Unlike most other Vandenberg launches, observing or photographing
tomorrow's events will probably be difficult. This is the result of a
number of factors:

* The launch will occur during daylight.

* The exhaust from the Titan II's engines is transparent and smoke-
  free. Solid fuel produces a tremendous amount of light and smoke
  when it burns, but the Titan II is completely liquid-fueled.

* Coastal low clouds and fog will probably be present at launch time.

Many people would assume that, because of the vehicle's transparent
and smoke-free exhaust, the best viewing location would be as close as
possible to the pad (south Vandenberg). However, they're failing to
take the weather into account.

My strategy would be to get as close to the pad as possible, while
staying above 3,000 feet, the top of the coastal cloud layer. In my
opinion the best viewing location would be Santa Ynez Peak in the
mountains above Refugio State Beach. Directions to Santa Ynez Peak
are posted on the above web site on the page titled "Viewing
Vandenberg AFB Missile Launches".

Assuming you find a suitable location, what will you see? If the
lighting is right, the sunlight glinting off of the vehicle's
unpainted skin will allow you to see the vehicle with the unaided eye.
The most visible phase of the launch will occur when the Titan II
creates a vapor trail as it passes through the area between 35,000 and
45,000 feet. Shortly thereafter, there will be a reddish-brown puff at
stage 1 and stage 2 separation.

The best source of countdown status for tomorrow's launch will
probably be:
A story about Monday's launch is tentatively scheduled for broadcast
tomorrow on KCLU-FM at approximately 06:32, 07:32, and 08:32 PDT. KCLU
transmits on 88.3 and 102.3 MHz in Ventura County and Santa Barbara,
respectively. It can also be heard via the Internet at
    The following is a news release from Lockheed-Martin about the
    NOAA-17 launch. Note that the spacecraft is referred to as
    NOAA-M. Once it reaches orbit it will be designated NOAA-17


SUNNYVALE, Calif., June 17, 2002 - The NOAA-M spacecraft, a polar-
orbiting operational earth observation satellite, is being prepared
for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on June 24, 2002.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale built NOAA-M, and a
Titan II space launch vehicle, provided under contract to the U.S. Air
Force by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, will carry the
satellite into orbit.

NOAA-M is the latest in the Advanced TIROS-N (ATN) satellite series.
All have been designed and built for the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) by Lockheed Martin companies since the first
Television and Infrared Observational Satellite (TIROS) weather
satellite launch in April 1960. Most of the spacecraft in the series
have operated far longer than originally expected, earning them a
reputation as the workhorse of the civil space Earth-imaging

"This team has been totally dedicated to providing NASA and NOAA with
satellites to extend NOAA’s ability to forecast the weather," says Al
Lauer, director of Low Earth Orbit Meteorological Programs for Space
Systems-Sunnyvale. "NOAA-M will be the third Polar Operational
Environmental Satellite (POES) spacecraft launched in the fifth decade
of this program. Our long-standing partnership with our NASA and NOAA
customers is a source of genuine pride for Lockheed Martin."

A constellation consists of two POES satellites circling the planet in
nearly north-south orbits. As the Earth rotates, the entire globe, one
swath at a time rolls into view of the satellite's instruments. The
instruments are continually sensing the entire depth of the atmosphere
and report on the following weather generating factors:

  Atmosphere Temperatures and Moisture Soundings
  Sea-surface Temperatures
  Land-surface Temperatures
  Cloud Cover and Heights
  Precipitable Moisture
  Total Ozone
  Clear Radiance
  Incoming and Radiated Heat

Together these data comprise irreplaceable inputs to the numerical
weather forecast model and are vital to medium and long-range
forecasting. Separately or in combination, the data are utilized to
produce sea-surface temperature maps, ice condition charts, snow
cover analysis, vegetation maps and other forecasting and management

Additionally, NOAA-M carries an enhanced complement of microwave
instruments for the generation of temperature, moisture, surface, and
hydrological products in cloudy regions where visible and infrared
instruments have decreased capability. NOAA-M also carries search and
rescue instruments that are used internationally for locating ships,
aircraft, and people in distress. The use of satellites in search and
rescue has been instrumental in saving more than 13,000 lives since
the inception of the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking
(SARSAT) system.

The NOAA-M satellite will operate in a circular, near-polar orbit of
450 nautical miles above the Earth with an inclination angle of
98.7465 degrees to the equator. Its orbital period, which is the time
it takes to complete one orbit of the Earth, will be approximately
101.35 minutes.

The NOAA-M orbit is Sun-synchronous, rotating eastward about the
Earth’s polar axis 0.986 degrees each day, approximately the same rate
and direction as the Earth’s average daily rotation about the Sun. The
rotation keeps the satellite in a constant position with reference to
the Sun for constant scene illumination throughout the year.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., is responsible
for the procurement, development, launch services, and verification
testing of the spacecraft, instruments, and unique ground equipment.
Following deployment of the spacecraft from the launch vehicle,
Goddard is responsible for the mission operation phase leading to
injection of the satellite into orbit and initial in-orbit satellite
checkout and evaluation.

Following the launch and a comprehensive on-orbit verification period
that lasts 45 days, NASA will turn operational control of the
satellites over to NOAA. NOAA will operate the satellites from the
Satellite Operations Control Center in Suitland, Md., along with the
nation’s other environmental satellites that it operates.

NOAA’s environmental satellite system is composed of two types of
satellites: Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)
for national, regional, short-range warning and “now-casting”; and
Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES) for global, long-
term forecasting and environmental monitoring. Both GOES and POES are
necessary for providing a complete global weather monitoring system.
Both also carry search and rescue instruments to relay signals from
people in distress.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company is one of the major operating 
units of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Space Systems designs, develops,
tests, manufactures, and operates a variety of advanced technology
systems for military, civil and commercial customers. Chief products
include a full-range of space launch systems, including heavy-lift
capability, ground systems, remote sensing and communications
satellites for commercial and government customers, advanced space
observatories and interplanetary spacecraft, fleet ballistic missiles
and missile defense systems.

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