An international satellite that will set a new standard for global precipitation measurements from space has completed a 7,300-mile journey from the United States to Japan, where it now will undergo launch preparations.
A U.S. Air Force C-5 transport aircraft carrying the Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory landed at Kitakyushu Airport, about 600 miles southwest of Tokyo, at approximately 10:30 p.m., EST, Nov. 23.
The spacecraft, the size of a small private jet, is the largest satellite ever built at NASAís Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. It left Goddard inside a large shipping container Nov. 19 and began its journey across the Pacific Ocean Nov. 21 from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, with a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.
From Kitakyushu Airport, the spacecraft was loaded onto a barge heading to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in southern Japan, where it will be prepared for launch in early 2014 on an H-IIA rocket.
“We have been building GPM hardware at Goddard for over four years,” said Art Azarbarzin, GPM project manager, who traveled with the spacecraft on its flight to Japan. “We are excited now to get the spacecraft to Tanegashima and looking forward to the launch.”
The satellite is designed to pool together precipitation measurements taken by a constellation of orbiting U.S. and international partner satellites, resulting in a single and comprehensive dataset of global precipitation every three hours.
The satellite will measure rain and snow using two science instruments: the GPM Microwave Imager and the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar. The GMI captures precipitation intensities and horizontal patterns, while the DPR provides insights into the three-dimensional structure of rain, snow and other precipitation particles. Together, these two instruments provide a database of measurements against which other partner satellites’ microwave observations can be meaningfully compared and combined to make a global precipitation dataset.
The GPM mission is a partnership led by NASA and JAXA. Goddard built and assembled the satellite. JAXA provided the DPR instrument and launch services. The Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo., built the GMI under contract to Goddard.
The GPM constellation is a network of satellites from multiple U.S. and international space agencies, including NASA, JAXA, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Japan; the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales in France; the Indian Space Research Organisation; and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.