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).
- 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.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1929 GMT (0329 HKT)
Scientists are closer to seeing a vast, invisible universe as a spectrometer in Earth orbit picks up possible clues of dark matter.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
The Soviets sent stray dogs up to conquer space. This is what happened next
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Scientists believe that a hot gas bubble was formed by multiple supernovas.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Life aboard the International Space Station.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
NASA's New Horizons mission hurtles toward Pluto in historic 3 billion mile expedition.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
After a 10-year chase the Rosetta spacecraft is now orbiting a comet
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
"Here comes the sun" indeed, and it was just barely all right.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Seems NASA's fascination with the moon is in the past. It's focused on something far more menacing: incoming asteroids
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0356 GMT (1156 HKT)
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.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
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."
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1943 GMT (0343 HKT)
From Earth, the sun appears as a constant circle of light, but when viewed in space a brilliant display of motion is revealed.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
The full moons of this summer -- July 12, August 10 and September 9 -- are supermoons, as NASA calls them.
June 29, 2014 -- Updated 1551 GMT (2351 HKT)
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.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 0147 GMT (0947 HKT)
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.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
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.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
The sun is putting on a fireworks show again.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2302 GMT (0702 HKT)
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.
May 2, 2014 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
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.
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
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.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.