On September 6, while performing work on the NOAA-N
Prime spacecraft, being prepared to launch in 2008 for the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the
satellite was dropped.

Lockheed Martin, the contractor in charge of the
construction and test of the satellite in Sunnyvale, Calif.,
NASA and NOAA formed teams to investigate the accident and
assess impact. The 14-foot spacecraft was about three feet
off the ground in an upright stance, when it slipped from a
fixture, as it was being turned from a vertical to
horizontal position.

“NASA and NOAA are understandably concerned about this
accident, because the NOAA-N Prime spacecraft is vital to
the continuity of the polar-orbiting environmental satellite
program. We are waiting for an assessment of the damage from
the investigation teams. We will have a better idea of the
extent of the impact on our satellite programs when the
results are available,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral
Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D, undersecretary of commerce for
oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service operates two polar-
orbiting operational environmental satellites (POES), which
are critical in monitoring weather and climate.

NOAA-N Prime is under guard, and Lockheed Martin and NASA
have secured all records.

NASA develops the POES for NOAA on a reimbursable basis.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md, performs
program management for the development of the satellites.

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