History of NOAA's environmental satellites
Posted: June 22, 2002

The first weather satellite in a series of spacecraft originally known as the Television Infrared Observation Satellites (TIROS) was launched on April 1, 1960. By the mid 1970's NOAA and NASA agreed to produce the series operationally based on the TIROS-N generation of satellites. TIROS-N, a research and development spacecraft serving as a prototype for the operational follow-on series, NOAA-A through NOAA-N-Prime was on launched October 13, 1978.

Beginning with NOAA-E, launched in 1983, the basic satellite was 'stretched' to permit accommodation of additional research instruments. This became known as the Advanced TIROS-N configuration. Some of the additional instruments flown include: Search and Rescue; Earth Radiation Budget Experiment, and the Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet spectrometer. Three of those instruments, Search and Rescue Repeater, Search and Rescue Processor and Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet Radiometer, became part of the operational program. The primary sounding instrumentation has remained essentially unchanged until the addition of Advanced Microwave Sounding Units-A and B on NOAA-K (15).

The satellite design life throughout the series has been two years. The lifetime is a cost/risk tradeoff since more years normally result in a more expensive satellite. To mitigate that risk, the NOAA-M satellite uses the most reliable NASA-approved flight parts, Class S, and considerable redundancy in critical subsystem components. The instruments are not redundant, so they are purchased to a three-year design life in order to enhance their expected operational reliability. Because of the inherent reliability built in and the extensive ground testing prior to launch, this series of satellites has demonstrated performance well exceeding the design lifetime. TIROS-N was launched October 13, 1978, and was the first satellite in the fourth generation operational environmental satellite system. TIROS-N was a research and development spacecraft serving as a proto flight for the operational follow-on series, NOAA-A through N' spacecraft. The spacecraft was deactivated on February 27, 1981.

NOAA-A (6) was launched June 27, 1979 and was totally deactivated on March 31, 1987, after nearly eight years of operational service.

NOAA-B was launched May 29, 1980, and failed to achieve a usable orbit because of a booster engine anomaly.

NOAA-C (7) was launched June 23, 1981, and was deactivated in June 1986.

NOAA-E (8) was launched March 28, 1983. It was the first of the Advanced TIROS-N configuration satellites and included a stretched structure to provide growth capability; it also included the first search and rescue package. The satellite was deactivated on December 29, 1985.

NOAA-F (9) was launched December 12, 1984, and was deactivated on February 13,1998.

NOAA-G (10) was launched September 17, 1986, and was deactivated on August 30, 2001.

NOAA-H (11) was launched September 24, 1988. Some instruments are currently in use to a limited degree.

NOAA-D (12) was launched on May 14, 1991, and some instruments and other subsystems continue to operate satisfactorily. NOAA-12 was placed in standby mode on December 14, 1998, when NOAA-15 became operational.

NOAA-I (13) was launched on August 9, 1993, and two weeks after launch, the spacecraft suffered a power system anomaly. Attempts to contact or command the spacecraft since the power failure have been unsuccessful.

NOAA-J (14) was launched on December 30, 1994, and is currently designated the backup afternoon satellite. NOAA-L (16) replaced NOAA-J (14) as the operational afternoon satellite on March 19, 2001.

NOAA-K (15) was launched on May 13, 1998, and is currently the designated operational morning satellite. It replaced NOAA-D (12) on December 14, 1998, as the primary morning spacecraft.

NOAA-L (16) was launched on September 21, 2000, and is currently the designated operational afternoon satellite. It replaced NOAA-J (14) on March 19, 2001, as the primary afternoon spacecraft.

Illustration of satellite history. Photo: NOAA

Flight data file
Vehicle: Titan 2 (G-14)
Payload: NOAA-M
Launch date: June 24, 2002
Launch window: 1822-1832 GMT (2:22-2:32 p.m. EDT)
Launch site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Satellite broadcast: GE-2, Transponder 9, C-band

Pre-launch briefing
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.

Titan 2 - Description of the former ICBM missile converted to a space launch vehicle.

NOAA-M - General overview of this weather satellite.

Instruments - A look at the instruments aboard NOAA-M.

Gemini 7
Gemini 7: The NASA Mission Reports covers this 14-day mission by Borman and Lovell as they demonstrated some of the more essential facts of space flight. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo patches
The Apollo Patch Collection: Includes all 12 Apollo mission patches plus the Apollo Program Patch. Save over 20% off the Individual price.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars Rover mission patch
A mission patch featuring NASA's Mars Exploration Rover is available from our online.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo 9 DVD
On the road to the moon, the mission of Apollo 9 stands as an important gateway in experience and procedures. This 2-DVD collection presents the crucial mission on the voyage to the moon.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Creating Space
Creating Space groups together the history, the vehicles and the models into logical and meaningful categories. This book is equally valuable to space enthusiasts, modellers, and space historians.

Columbia Report
A reproduction of the official accident investigation report into the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars Panorama

DISCOUNTED! This 360 degree image was taken by the Mars Pathfinder, which landed on the Red Planet in July 1997. The Sojourner Rover is visible in the image.
 Choose your store:

Apollo 11 Mission Report
Apollo 11 - The NASA Mission Reports Vol. 3 is the first comprehensive study of man's first mission to another world is revealed in all of its startling complexity. Includes DVD!
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Rocket DVD
If you've ever watched a launch from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg Air Force Base or even Kodiak Island Alaska, there's no better way to describe what you witnessed than with this DVD.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo 11 special patch
Special collectors' patch marking the 35th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing is now available.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K.

Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!

STS-134 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!

Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.

Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.

Project Orion
The Orion crew exploration vehicle is NASA's first new human spacecraft developed since the space shuttle a quarter-century earlier. The capsule is one of the key elements of returning astronauts to the Moon.

Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.

Get e-mail updates
Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop (privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose).
Enter your e-mail address:



© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.