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Japan launches gen-next weather satellite

The four-tonne spacecraft jointly developed by the US and Japan launched aboard H-IIA rocket.

A powerful next-generation weather satellite aimed at gathering unprecedented 3-D measurements of global rain and snowfall rates has been launched from a Japanese space port. The four-tonne spacecraft jointly developed by the US and Japan launched aboard H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in southern Japan, NASA said. (AP)

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) observatory separated from the rocket 16 minutes after launch, at an altitude of 398 kilometres. The solar arrays deployed 10 minutes after spacecraft separation, to power the spacecraft. "With this launch, we have taken another giant leap in providing the world with an unprecedented picture of our planet's rain and snow," said 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," said Bolden. (Reuters)

The GPM Core Observatory will take a major step in improving upon the capabilities of the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM), a joint NASA-JAXA mission launched in 1997 and still in operation. While TRMM measured precipitation in the tropics, the GPM Core Observatory expands the coverage area from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle. GPM will also be able to detect light rain and snowfall, a major source of available fresh water in some regions. (AP)

To better understand Earth's weather and climate cycles, the GPM Core Observatory will collect information that unifies and improves data from an international constellation of existing and future satellites by mapping global precipitation every three hours. "It is incredibly exciting to see this spacecraft launch," said GPM Project Manager Art Azarbarzin of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. (Reuters)

"Soon, as GPM begins to collect precipitation observations, we'll see these instruments at work providing real-time information for the scientists about intensification of storms, rainfall in remote areas and so much more," said Azarbarzin. The GPM was assembled at Goddard and is the largest spacecraft ever built at the center. It carries two instruments to measure rain and snowfall. (Reuters)

The GPM Microwave Imager, provided by NASA, will estimate precipitation intensities from heavy to light rain, and snowfall by carefully measuring the minute amounts of energy naturally emitted by precipitation. (Reuters)

The Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR), developed by JAXA with the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Tokyo, will use emitted radar pulses to make detailed measurements of three-dimensional rainfall structure and intensity, allowing scientists to improve estimates of how much water the precipitation holds. (Reuters)