Skip to main content

Successful launch for rain-tracking satellite

A NASA satellite blasted off on this rocket at Japan's Tanegashima Space Center at 3:37 a.m. Friday (1:37 p.m. Thursday ET).
A NASA satellite blasted off on this rocket at Japan's Tanegashima Space Center at 3:37 a.m. Friday (1:37 p.m. Thursday ET).
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Satellite will beam back the most precise measurements of rain and snow yet
  • It is launched in Japan
  • NASA says it will help both short-term forecasts and long-term climate projections

(CNN) -- A Japanese rocket roared into orbit early Friday (Thursday afternoon ET) carrying what NASA calls its most precise instrument yet for measuring rain and snowfall.

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite is the first of five earth science launches NASA has planned for 2014. The 4-ton spacecraft is the most sophisticated platform yet for measuring rainfall, capable of recording amounts as small as a hundredth of an inch an hour, said Gail Skofronick Jackson, GPM's deputy project scientist.

The $900 million satellite is a joint project with the Japanese space agency JAXA, and it lifted off from Tanegashima Space Center at 3:37 a.m. Friday (1:37 p.m. Thursday ET). In a little over a half hour, it had reached orbit, deployed its solar panels and began beaming signals back to its controllers, NASA said.

Also, once fully activated, GPM will use both radar and microwave instruments to detect falling snow for the first time. It will also combine data from other satellites with its own readings, beaming back a snapshot of worldwide precipitation every three hours, Jackson said.

"We can start using the data for all sorts of applications -- for floods, for landslide predictions, for tracking hurricanes so we know what part of the coastline to evacuate," Jackson said.

That data will boost not only immediate storm forecasts, but also aid climate scientists who have been working on long-term models of a changing world.

"We can start validating and verifying what the scientists are saying from the models that say we're going to have more extreme precipitation," she said. "Where there's heavy precipitation now, the climate models are saying there'll continue to be more intense precipitation there, and where there's droughts, they think the droughts will be more intense."

The craft has enough fuel for at least five years and is expected to last longer -- so when combined with earlier missions, it will give NASA an unbroken 25- to 30-year rainfall record, Jackson said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
updated 3:29 PM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
This image from the Hubble Space Telescope indicates that a huge ring of dark matter likely exists surrounding the center of CL0024+17 that has no normal matter counterpart.
Scientists are closer to seeing a vast, invisible universe as a spectrometer in Earth orbit picks up possible clues of dark matter.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Soviets sent stray dogs up to conquer space. This is what happened next
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Scientists believe that a hot gas bubble was formed by multiple supernovas.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robonaut is the next generation dexterous robot
Life aboard the International Space Station.
updated 9:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
NASA's New Horizons mission hurtles toward Pluto in historic 3 billion mile expedition.
updated 4:44 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
Rosetta spacecraft arrives at its destination, Comet 67P after a 10-year journey around the solar system.
After a 10-year chase the Rosetta spacecraft is now orbiting a comet
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
"Here comes the sun" indeed, and it was just barely all right.
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Seems NASA's fascination with the moon is in the past. It's focused on something far more menacing: incoming asteroids
updated 11:56 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
The U.S. Army brainchild "Project Horizon" was born. Its proposal to leap beyond the Soviets opened with the line: "There is a requirement for a manned military outpost on the moon."
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
solar flare july 2014
From Earth, the sun appears as a constant circle of light, but when viewed in space a brilliant display of motion is revealed.
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
The full moons of this summer -- July 12, August 10 and September 9 -- are supermoons, as NASA calls them.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Sun June 29, 2014
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
updated 9:47 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
The U.S. space shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving American astronauts to hitchhike into orbit. But after three long years, NASA's successor is almost ready to make an entrance.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The sun is putting on a fireworks show again.
updated 7:02 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
A year is a very long time on Mars -- 687 days. NASA's Curiosity rover can attest that it's enough time for some unexpected life changes.
updated 2:00 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
At least one corner of the solar system may be serving up an ice-and-water sandwich, with the possibility of life on the rocks.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
You can't see it happening on Earth, but space itself is stretching. Ever since the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been getting bigger.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
ADVERTISEMENT