A Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) built for the U.S. Air Force by Lockheed Martin Space Systems is undergoing final preparation for a planned Oct. 18 launch, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based satellite manufacturer said in an Oct. 7 press release.

The DMSP F-18 Block 5D-3 satellite is slated to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. It will be the first DMSP satellite launched since November 2006.

The U.S. military uses DMSP satellites for strategic and tactical weather prediction. The Block 5D-3 series accommodates larger sensor payloads than earlier generations, more powerful onboard computers, and increased battery capacity meant to extend the mission duration.

In addition to the DMSP F-18, Lockheed Martin has two DMSP satellites in storage at Sunnyvale awaiting call up by the Air Force. The DMSP constellation consists of two spacecraft in near-polar orbits.