DMSP: Tempest Tracker for the US Military
Military commanders have always been subject to the whims of mother nature. Napoleon’s attempt to take Moscow stalled in the bitter cold and snow of the Russian winter. The D-Day invasion was postponed because of a poor weather forecast.
To better predict the weather, the US Department of Defense began an effort in the 1960s called the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) to use satellites to monitor weather from space. Data from DMSP satellites are used for strategic and tactical weather prediction to aid the US military in planning operations at sea, on land and in the air.
The aging DMSP is being replaced by the National Polar-orbiting Observing Satellite System (NPOESS); however, that system is $3 billion over budget and is not expected to be ready until 2012. In the meantime, DMSP replacement satellites are being launched to keep the system functioning. On Oct 18/09, the DMSP F-18 satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 2 more DMSP satellites – F-19 and F-20 – are expected to be launched before the program ends…
The DMSP Satellites
The primary weather sensor on DMSP is the Operational Linescan System, which provides visual and infrared imagery of cloud cover over an area 16,000 nautical miles wide. Global coverage of weather features is accomplished every 14 hours providing data over data-sparse or data-denied areas. Additional satellite sensors measure atmospheric vertical profiles of moisture and temperature.
Military weather forecasters can detect developing patterns of weather and track existing weather systems over remote areas, including the presence of severe thunderstorms, hurricanes and typhoons.
The DMSP satellites also measure local charged particles and electromagnetic fields to assess the impact of the ionosphere on ballistic-missile early warning radar systems and long-range communications. Additionally, these data are used to monitor global auroral activity and to predict the effects of the space environment on satellite operations.
Tracking stations at New Boston Air Force Station, NH; Thule Air Base, Greenland; Fairbanks, AK; and Kaena Point, HI receive DMSP data and electronically transfer them to the Air Force Weather Agency at Offutt Air Force Base, NE. Tactical units with special equipment can also receive data directly from the satellites.
At present, the Flight 19 satellite is slated for launch in 2014, and the final Flight 20 satellite is set to launch in 2020. A new USAF plan could move DMSP-20 to a FY 2015 launch, which would be competed between ULA and SpaceX.
- Primary Function: Collect terrestrial, space environment and Earth surface data
- Primary contractor: Northrop Grumman/Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space
- Weight: 2,545 pounds, including 592-pound sensor payload
- Orbit altitude: Approximately 450 nautical miles
- Dimensions: 14.1 feet long without solar panels deployed
- Power plant: 10 panels, generating 2,200 watts of power
- Launch vehicle: Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle – Medium
- Date 1st deployed: August 1962
DSMP satellites since Flight 16 (2003 launch) have included the following instruments. All are new, with the exception of the OLS:
- OLS (Operational Linescan System) weather imager
- SSMIS (microwave imager and sounder)
- SSULI ultraviolet limb imager
- SSUSI ultraviolet spectrographic imager and nadir airglow photometer
- SSI/ES-3 thermal plasma instrument
- SSJ/5 precipitating particle spectrometer
- SSF laser threat warning sensor
Contracts & Key Events, 2008 – Present
July 15/14: USAF Secretary Deborah Lee James tells reporters that they’re looking to reprogram $100 million, moving the DMSP-20 weather satellite launch purchase into FY 2015 as a competed contract. That would raise the number of purchased FY 2015 launches to 6, but the amount committed strongly suggests that SpaceX would win the deal. DoD Buzz, “Air Force Seeks $100 Million for Rocket Rivalry”.
July 23/13: SIT. Lockheed Martin Space System Corp. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $101.6 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification for DMSP’s Spacecraft Integration and test (SIT). This includes work associated with the revision of the launch dates for the Flight 19 and Flight 20 satellites, and re-phasing of the SIT contract consistent with the revised launch dates over FY 2013 – 2022. The contract’s total value is now $619.8 million.
Work will be performed at Sunnyvale, CA, and is expected to be complete by Oct 1/20. Funds will be committed as needed by the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center/Defense Weather Systems Directorate at Los Angeles AFB, CA (F04701-02-C-0003, PO 0208).
July 13/12: F20 delay. In March 2012, the USAF decided to push DMSP F20′s launch back from 2016 to 2020. That created a big problem for NASA, who was slated to launch its Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat 2) aboard the same Atlas 5 rocket, and pay $50 million for a dual-payload launch adapter – instead of paying more than twice as much for a launch of its own.
Since NASA didn’t want to wait until 2020 to begin the ICESat 2 mission, the USAF’s date change was the end of that plan. Space News.
F20 launch revision
June 26/12: SIT. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a $16 million cost-plus-award-fee contract modification for DMSP’s SIT (spacecraft integration and test). Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, CA, and will be complete by October 2016. The Defense Weather Systems Directorate in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (F04701-02-C-0003, PO 0196).
April 5/12: Out-of-date. USAF Secretary Michael Donley tells a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC that DMSP is out of date, but the service will launch them because they still provide some useful capability. With weather surveillance satellites hitting the end of their service lives, and the NPOESS and DWSS replacements canceled, it’s not as if they have much choice.
DMSP F19 and DMSP F20 will be taken out of storage at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, then refurbished. The USAF has reportedly “identified problems with the suite of microwave and ultraviolet sensors that are on the final two DMSP satellites but has a plan to fix them…” Space News.
Jan 10/12: DMSP-19/20 launches. United Launch Services, LLC in Littleton, CO receives a $1.516 billion firm-fixed-price contract for Atlas V EELV launch services in support of Defense Meteorological Satellites Program satellite DMSP-19, the narrowband UHF Mobile User Objective System satellite MUOS-3, and 3 National Reconnaissance Office missions. It also buys Delta IV EELV launch services in support of Air Force Space Command-4, 2 GPS satellites, and the DMSP-20 weather satellite.
Work will be performed in Decatur, AL, and the contract runs until June 30/14. The USAF’s SMC/LRK in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (FA8811-11-C-001 PO 0012).
Feb 1/10: What’s next? The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy announces NPOESS’ restructuring, while referring to the system as “a national priority” and contending that “Independent reports and an administration task force have concluded that the current program cannot be successfully executed with the current management structure, and with the current budget structure.” The decision follows recommendations from an Executive Office of the President (EOP) Task Force, working since August 2009.
In response to those recommendations and findings, the program will be split. NASA and NOAA will be responsible for the afternoon orbit via the Joint Polar Satellite System, and the USAF will take responsibility for the morning orbit. A tradition plan is being drawn up, and the European Space Agency’s EUMETSAT partnership will “remain a key part of our ability to provide continuous polar-orbiting measurements.” The USAF still has some Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) polar-orbiting satellites available for launch for the next few years, but NOAA launched its final polar-orbiting satellite in February 2009. As such, efforts will focus development of NASA and NOAA’s JPSS platform, with a plan for USAF satellites to follow by Q4 FY 2011.
The release notes that “The NASA developed and operating Earth Observing System (EOS) Aqua satellite and ground system are very similar in scope and magnitude to the proposed JPSS program.” It adds that some system appear to have matured:
“Significant progress has been made with the [NPOESS Preparatory Project], now with a realistic and achievable launch date of September 2011. A key instrument, the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), has been tested and shipped from the developers to NPP and can now be integrated onto the spacecraft. The Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) has been developed, integrated onto the NPP spacecraft, and tested for flight. The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) has been integrated and fully tested for flight. NOAA and NASA have taken advantage of the NPP opportunity to add the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument to NPP. This instrument has been integrated onto the spacecraft and tested for flight, thus ensuring the continuity of this critical data set beyond the NASA EOS (Terra and Aqua) missions.”
Jan 29/10: F19-F20. Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, CA receives an $85.4 million contract for work associated with revising the launch dates for DMSP F-19 and F-20 satellites and rephrasing of the contract consistent with the revised launch dates.
USAF Space and Missile Systems Center manages the contract (F04701-02-C-0003, P00157).
Oct 18/09: DMSP-18 launch. The satellite successfully lifts off aboard an Atlas-5 401 rocket.
Sept 30/08: New launch schedule. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corp. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a maximum $20.2 million cost-plus award-fee contract modification to DMSP’s SIT (spacecraft integration and test) contract. It includes tasks associated with delaying the launch of Flight 18, and SIT re-baselining for the launches of DMSP Flight 18-20 inclusive.
F18 will now launch on Dec 19/08, F19 on May 7/11, and F20 on Oct 11/12. The USAF Space and Missiles Systems Center/ Defense Meteorological Satellite Program in El Segundo, CA manages the contract (F04701-02-C-0003, P00127).
July 2/08: F19-F20 fixes. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corp. in Sunnyvale, CA receives a maximum $9.4 million cost-plus award-fee/ cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification. The USAF wants them to improve DMSP F19 & F20′s system reliability, as part of the Service Life Extension Program II (SLEP II). SLEP II tasks include:
- Flight 19 and Flight 20 hardness modifications
- F19 processing – upgrade Telemetry Real-Time Analysis and Display System (TRADS)
- Procure Vertical Transport Enclosure (VTE)
- Procure Star Tracker (ST) ground support equipment
- Update spacecraft thermal model
- Swap Operational Line Scan (OLS) on F19 and install new OLS cable on F19 and F20
- Develop and execute F19 Glare Suppression Subsystem-B (GSSBs) Sun Shade certification test plan
- Install connector backshells on F19 and F20
- System Engineering (SE) analysis and trending of spacecraft data for Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) modification and parts obsolescence/aging impacts.
At this time $1.6 million is committed by the USAF Space and Missiles Systems Center/ Defense Meteorological Satellite Program in El Segundo, CA (F04701-02-C-0003, P00116).