The United States has agreed
to lend Japan a geostationary environmental satellite to ensure
weather data from the Western Pacific are available continuously
should a weakening Japanese satellite fail, the Commerce Department’s
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
announced today. The loan of this satellite sets the stage for
long-term mutual backup arrangements between the United States
and Japan.

The Geostationary
Operational Environmental Satellite
, GOES-9, will ensure
continuous geostationary meteorological coverage in the Western
Pacific, including U.S. territories, U.S. military facilities,
and U.S. military and commercial vessels in the region.

"This is especially important for severe weather prediction
and typhoon forecasting," said Vice Adm. Conrad
C. Lautenbacher, Jr.
, USN (ret.), Under Secretary of Commerce
for Oceans and Atmosphere, and NOAA Administrator. "Without
this backup agreement, the Japanese people and U.S. territories
and assets in the Pacific could be at risk due to severe weather."


GOES-9 will be readied to back
up the Geostationary Meteorological Satellite-5 (GMS-5), operated
by the Japan Meteorological Agency. GMS-5, launched in 1995,
is past its useful life and is encountering imaging problems
and fuel shortages. GOES-9, also launched in 1995 and currently
in storage mode, does not meet U.S. weather forecasting requirements,
but does have sounding and limited imaging capabilities which
will supply data comparable to that of the GMS-5 .

Japan’s Multifunctional Transportation
Satellite (MTSAT)-1 was planned as a replacement for GMS-5, but
experienced a launch failure in 1999. The replacement follow-on,
MTSAT-1R, is currently planned for launch in the summer of 2003.

In addition to continuous weather
coverage from the Western Pacific, the United States will receive
additional benefits from this agreement. NOAA’s
Command and Data Acquisition Station in Fairbanks
, Alaska,
will be upgraded to allow the United States to control a GOES
Satellite over the Western Pacific. This would be needed if weather
or another disaster were to disable the prime GOES station at
Wallops, Virginia.

The Japan
Meteorological Agency
will pay for all upgrades and operations
costs. The agreement also lays the groundwork for a separate
long-term mutual backup agreement, which would enable the United
States to call on Japan if the United States had problems with
one of its geostationary satellites.

Today’s agreement is an important
step toward ensuring global coverage for environmental observations
through exemplary international cooperation.

NOAA’s satellites are operated
by the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information
Service (NOAA Satellite
and Data Service
), the nation’s primary source of space-based
meteorological and climate data. NOAA Satellite and Data Service
operates the nation’s environmental satellites, which are used
for weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and other environmental
applications such as fire detection, ozone monitoring, and sea
surface temperature measurements.

NOAA Satellite and Data Service
also operates three data centers, which house global data bases
in climatology, oceanography, solid earth geophysics, marine
geology and geophysics, solar-terrestrial physics, and paleoclimatology.
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