Space: Too Damn Good


April 15, 2014: An American 1.2 ton DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) weather satellite delivered in 1998 was finally launched on April 3rd 2014. The delay was the result of earlier DMSP satellites lasting much longer than expected. As a result this one (a block 5D-3 model) was stuck on the ground waiting its turn to go into orbit.

During nearly two decades in storage the latest DMSP satellite was well maintained and upgraded. Many of its original electronics were vintage early 1990s and far superior replacements have since appeared and been installed. DMSP satellites collect and send to earth data on cloud cover, precipitation, surface temperatures and soil moisture as well as conditions in orbital space.

Since the 1960s 52 DMSP satellites have been launched and over a dozen are still in orbit, some of them dating from the 1980s. The oldest operational DMSP went up in 1995. The usual orbit is 800 kilometers up and about seven are active at any time. This provides 24 hour global coverage and most of the data is shared openly.