At all times, two operational DMSP Block 5D-2
satellites are in polar orbits at about 450 nautical miles. The primary weather
sensor on DMSP is the Operational Linescan System which provides continuous visual
and infrared imagery of cloud cover over a swath 1,800 miles wide. Additional
satellite sensors measure atmospheric vertical profiles of moisture and temperature.
Military weather forecasters use these data to monitor and predict regional and
global weather patterns; including the presence of severe thunderstorms, hurricanes,
The DMSP satellites also measure local charged particles and
electromagnetic fields to assess the impact of the ionosphere on ballistic-missile
early warning radar systems and long-range communications. Additionally, these
data are used to monitor global auroral activity and to predict the effects of
the space environment on military satellite operations.
at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.; New Boston Air Force Station, NH; Thule Air
Base, Greenland and Kaena Point, Hawaii, receive DMSP data and electronically
transfer them to two military weather centers, one at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.,
and the other at Monterey, Calif. Field and sea units with special equipment can
also receive data directly from the satellites.
The Block 5D-2 is the current
generation of DMSP vehicle. Block 5D-3, with a projected first launch in 1999,
will provide increased capabilities, including improved sensors and a longer life
In May 1994, the President directed the Departments of Defense and
Commerce to converge their separate polar orbiting weather satellite programs.
DMSP, operated under a tri-agency organization (DoC, DoD, and NASA), will continue
to provide essential environmental sensing data to the warfighter.
Materiel Command's Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base,
Calif., is responsible for development and acquisition of DMSP systems.
Weight: 1,750 pounds
Orbit altitude: Approximately
450 nautical miles
11 feet, 6 inches high; 4 feet, 9 inches
wide; 19 feet, 3 inches long