WASHINGTON — The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched the joint U.S.-Japanese Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory Feb. 27 aboard an H-2A rocket from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center.

NASA confirmed the GPM satellite’s solar arrays deployed around 2 p.m. Eastern time, about 23 minutes after launch. 

The satellite will measure global rainfall and snowfall levels from 400 kilometers above Earth using its GPM Microwave Imager, built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., and the Japanese-built Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar.

With a launch mass of 3,850 kilograms, the GPM observatory is the largest satellite ever assembled at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The spacecraft launched about two weeks later than planned because of the partial U.S. government shutdown back in October, which disrupted preparations. 

GPM is a successor to another NASA-JAXA collaboration called the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, which launched in 1997 and is still operating.

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Dan Leone is the NASA reporter for SpaceNews, where he also covers other civilian-run U.S. government space programs and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He joined SpaceNews in 2011.Dan earned a bachelor's degree in public communications...