The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory was launched last Thursday aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket that blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in southern Japan. The satellite will help provide a more detailed picture of the Earth's precipitation to assist climate scientists and help improve forecasting of extreme weather events.
A joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory is a 4-ton spacecraft (and the largest spacecraft ever built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center) that will join a constellation of existing and future spacecraft to provide detailed information on the Earth's weather and climate cycles by mapping global precipitation every three hours.
It was launched into space on February 27 at 1:37 pm EST and separated from the H-IIA rocket 16 minutes after launch at an altitude of 247 miles (398 km). Ten minutes after separation, the spacecraft's solar arrays were deployed to supply power.
The GPM mission is designed to build on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRIMM), which is also a joint mission between NASA and JAXA that was launched in 1997 but only measures precipitation in the tropics. The GPM Core Observatory will extend coverage from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle, while also adding the ability to detect light rain and snowfall.
"With this launch, we have taken another giant leap in providing the world with an unprecedented picture of our planet's rain and snow," says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "GPM will help us better understand our ever-changing climate, improve forecasts of extreme weather events like floods, and assist decision makers around the world to better manage water resources."