The second in a series of weather satellites, Synchronous Meterological Satellite-B, is scheduled for launch by NASA from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The second in a series of weather satellites, Synchronous Meterological Satellite-B, is scheduled for launch by NASA from Cape Canaveral, Fla. aboard a Delta rocket about Jan. 30.
SMS-B, to be designated SMS-2 when in orbit, will be placed in geosynchronous orbit over the equator at 36,357 kilometres (22,591 miles) altitude at 135 degrees west longitude, which is directly south of Sitka, Alaska, and about 15 degrees southeast of Hawaii. From this position it can view the western half of the United States and Hawaii while its sister spacecraft, SMS-1, can view the eastern U.S. from its perch at 75 degrees west longitude, on a line with New York City and just south of Bogota, Columbia.
SMS-1, launched last May 17, provided the first synchronous-orbit, day-and-night photos of meterological conditions extending from the east coast of Africa to the eastern U.S., as well as South America.
The two spacecraft will be able to keep a 24-hour watch on the Western Hemisphere and provide cloud-cover pictures every 30 minutes to weathermen out of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Each carries a Visible and Infrared Spin-Scan Radiometer (VISSR) that return visible-light daytime pictures of 0.9-km (1/2-mi.) resolution and infra-red images of 9-km (5-mi.) resolution day and night.
This continuous coverage is of special importance for short-term phenomena such as the severe storm systems that procude tornadoes.
In addition, the west coast of Africa--the breeding grounds for hurricanes that strike the Caribbean, Florida, Gulf of Mexico and U.S. east coast areas--will be kept under the surveillance of SMS-1.
"Satellites are the cornerstone of the Hurricane Weather Service," Dr. Neil L. Frank, Director of NOAA's National Hurricane Centre in Miami, said recently. "Because of satellites, there is no way a major hurricane or severe storm can strike the U.S. undetected," he said.
The SMS pictures are made into film loops daily to show clouds moving over oceans and land masses. Such loops may well give meteorologists a clue as to what kind of cloud formation or weather conditions cause the sudden, death-dealing tornadoes that occur during the warm weather months. They also provide weathermen with detailed information on the movement of weather systems over the preceding few hours.
In addition, meteorologists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, Greenbelt, Md; have made film loops of a number of different hurricanes, including the disastrous Fifi that devastated Honduras last fall. The ability to study weather conditions, moving fronts andy systems 24 hours a day for weeks via film loops is important to a better understanding of weather and the ultimate formation of a world weather model.
About 45 days after launch, SMS-2 will be checked out in orbit and then turned over to NOAA for operational use, as has been done with SMS-1.
In addition to transmitting cloud-cover photos, SMS-2 will receive and transmit environmental information to NOAA from thousands of manned and unmanned data collection platforms around the U.S. on land, in rivers and lakes, and at sea.
The primary types of data to be obtained consist of meteorological, hydrological, oceanographic, seismic and tsunami information. For example, fixed platforms in remote land areas will send information on earthquakes, wind direction and velocity, rainfall and humidity. River platforms will measure currents, water levels and temperatures and air temperatures and give tsunami warnings.
Both SMS spacecraft also carry a space environment monitoring system that monitors solar particle flux, X-ray emission and magnetic field direction and strength.
As part of the Global Atmospheric Research Program (GARP), sponsored by the United Nations and International Council of Scientific Unions, the U.S. synchronous orbit spacecraft are expected to be joined, beginning in 1977, by similar spacecraft placed in orbit by the European Space Research Organization, Japan and Russia to form a global network of synchronous orbit satellites.
The SMS program is under the direction of NASA's Office of Applications, with project management the responsibility of the Goddard Space Flight Centre. The Office of Space Science directs the Delta launch program and project management is the responsibility of Goddard.
Philco-Ford, Palo Alto, Calif, is the spacecraft prime contractor. The Santa Barbara Research Centre of the Hughes Aircraft Co. developed and produced the VISSR, the main sensor for SMS.
The Defense and Electronic Systems Centre of the Westing-house Corp., Baltimore, Md., was responsible for developing and producing the synchronizer data buffer which processes the SMS picture data. In addition, the centre integrated the Command and Data Acquisition Station at Wallops Island, Va. McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co., Huntington Beach, Calif, is the prime contractor for the Delta launch vehicle.
Launch site operations management is provided by the Kennedy Space Centre's Unmanned Launch Operations Directorate.
The two spacecraft, including all onboard instrumentation, cost about $60 million, the Delta launch vehicles cost about $4.5 million each.