U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet

The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) has been collecting weather data for U.S. military operations for almost four decades.

Two operational DMSP satellites are in polar orbits at about 458 nautical miles (nominal) at all times. The primary weather sensor on DMSP is the Operational Linescan System, which provides continuous visual and infrared imagery of cloud cover over an area 1,600 nautical miles wide. Additional satellite sensors measure atmospheric vertical profiles of moisture and temperature. Military weather forecasters use these data to monitor and predict regional and global weather patterns, 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 military satellite operations.

Tracking stations at New Boston Air Force Station, N.H., Thule Air Base, Greenland, and Kaena Point, Hawaii, receive DMSP data and electronically transfer them to the military weather center at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Tactical units with special equipment can also receive data directly from the satellites.

In May 1994, the President directed the Departments of Defense and Commerce to converge their separate polar orbiting weather satellite programs. DMSP, operated under a tri-agency organization (DOC, DOD, and NASA), will continue to provide essential environmental sensing data to the warfighter.

A convergence effort of military and civilian weather satellites has formed a single, converged national environmental satellite system. The command, control and communications for DOD existing satellites has been combined with the control for Department of Commerce satellites. In June 1998, DOC took over the primary responsibility for flying both satellites until the converged systems are ready for launch during the 2008-2010 timeframe.

A joint operational team at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Suitland, Md., provides command and control. The Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., is responsible for development and acquisition of DMSP systems.

General Characteristics
Primary Function: Collect weather data
Primary contractor: Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space
Weight: 2,545 pounds (1154.4 kilograms), including 592-pound (268.5 kilogram) sensor payload
Orbit altitude: Approximately 528 miles (850 kilometers) (nominal)
Dimensions: 14.1 feet long (4.29 meters) without solar panels deployed
Power plant: 10 panels, generating 2,200 watts of power
Launch vehicle: Titan/Medium Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle
Date deployed: August 1962

Point of Contact
Air Force Space Command, Public Affairs Office; 150 Vandenberg St., Suite 1105; Peterson AFB, CO 80914-4500; DSN 692-3731 or (719) 554-3731.

March 2003

Accessibility/Section 508