WASHINGTON — The core observatory satellite in the U.S.-Japanese Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission is now scheduled to launch Feb. 27 aboard a Japanese H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center.
The GPM core observatory will lift off between 1:07 p.m. and 3:07 p.m. Eastern time, according to a Dec. 26 joint press release from NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
The satellite is launching about two weeks later than previously scheduled because of the partial U.S. government shutdown in October that kept workers locked out of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where the satellite was assembled.
The GPM satellite originally was to launch in July 2013, but that date was pushed back after an earthquake struck Japan in 2011 and delayed by nine months the delivery of one of the satellite’s two primary instruments, the Japanese-built Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar.
The GPM core observatory will embark on a three-year mission to measure global rainfall and snowfall levels. However, the satellite is carrying enough propellant for five years of operations. It will be the heart of an ad hoc international constellation of up to nine weather and climate satellites.
The 3,850-kilogram GPM core satellite is the largest spacecraft ever built at Goddard. In addition to the Japanese radar, the observatory hosts the GPM Microwave Imager, built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo.
On its way to Tanegashima, which is located off Japan’s southern tip, GPM was delayed by everything from fowl to foul weather.
First, the spacecraft’s Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy carrier plane was late to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where GPM began the airborne leg of its trans-Pacific journey following a short trip via truck from Goddard. Birds on a runway in Delaware — where the C-5M stopped before heading to Andrews — were responsible for the holdup, according to a timetable provided by NASA spokeswoman Rani Gran.
The same day the observatory left Andrews, Nov. 21, it had to make an unscheduled refueling stop at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska; rough winds at altitude made an in-flight fill-up impossible.
Takeoff from Anchorage was then postponed by icy weather, which delayed GPM’s landing at Kitakyushu Airport in Fukuoka, Japan, until Nov. 24. Next, a storm delayed the satellite’s ocean crossing to the Tanegashima Space Center until Nov. 26. Finally, on Nov. 27, GPM arrived at a Tanegashima clean room for final checkout.
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