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JPSS-1 launch
A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket sends the JPSS-1 satellite into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (ULA Photo)

The first in a series of four next-generation weather satellites, known as the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 or JPSS-1, is in orbit after a twice-delayed liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Four small research satellites and an Australian nanosatellite piggybacked on today’s United Launch Alliance Delta 2 launch and were successfully deployed as well.

Two launch attempts had to be scrubbed earlier in the week due to a variety of snags, including boats that strayed into the restricted zone for the launch, a technical glitch and weather concerns. But today’s countdown went smoothly, leading to liftoff at 1:47 a.m. PT today.

A joint project of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, JPSS-1 is designed to provide readings for atmospheric temperature and moisture, clouds, sea surface temperature, ocean color, sea ice cover, volcanic ash and fire detection.

JPSS-1’s data should lead to improved storm forecasts as well as more accurate assessments of post-storm damage.

“Launching JPSS-1 underscores NOAA’s commitment to putting the best possible satellites into orbit, giving our forecasters — and the public — greater confidence in weather forecasts up to seven days in advance, including the potential for severe, or impactful weather,” Stephen Volz, director of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, said in a NASA news release.

Once it settles into its final orbit, the satellite will be renamed NOAA-20.

After JPSS-1’s deployment, the small ride-along satellites were ejected into orbit. Four of them are part of a NASA educational program, and will test new technologies ranging from radiometric weather monitoring and the effects of space radiation on electronics to 3-D printing in space.

The Australian satellite, known as the Buccaneer Risk Mitigation Mission, will help that country’s military calibrate an over-the-horizon radar network.

Today’s launch marked the next-to-the-last scheduled use of ULA’s Delta 2 rocket. The model is due to be retired next year after sending NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite into orbit.

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