The 19th Lockheed Martin-built defense meteorological satellite program (DMSP) block 5D weather satellite has been encapsulated into its payload fairing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US.
Performed by the US Air Force (USAF), Lockheed, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance (ULA) team, the encapsulation within the Atlas V launch vehicle payload fairing represents a significant milestone for the DMSP-19 launch from the same location early next month.
The move also marks the completion of spacecraft integration, functional testing and compatibility checks with the air force satellite control network (AFSCN).
Lockheed Martin DMSP programme director Sue Stretch said the weather guides some of the most important decisions in the armed forces, from flight patterns to troop movements.
"Through DMSP, we’re helping to provide safer, successful military missions," Stretch said.
"As we approach launch, we are ready to continue serving this mission for the military and civil agencies that depend on it."
The encapsulated payload is now scheduled to be carried on a transporter to the launch pad for integration onto the Atlas V vehicle, for what is believed to be first DMSP launch in five years after October 2009, when DMSP-18 joined the constellation.
The DMSP-19 satellite is fitted with a sophisticated sensor suite that can capture visible and infrared cloud cover, measure precipitation, surface temperature and soil moisture, and also collect specialised global meteorological, oceanographic and solar-geophysical information in all weather conditions.
Manufactured by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space Systems, the DMSP satellite collects and provides terrestrial, space environment and Earth surface data to help the US military in the planning of operations on the ground, at sea and in the air.
The satellite primarily helps the US military weather forecasters detect weather developing patterns and track presence of severe thunderstorms, hurricanes and typhoons over remote areas.
The USAF’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) is the concerned authority for procurement and development of DMSP systems.
Image: Engineers and technicians encapsulate the 19th DMSP block 5D weather satellite within its launch fairing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, US. Photo: courtesy of United Launch Alliance.