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20-May-05 | Delta flight 312 – NOAA-N

NOAA-N was successfully launched during the early morning hours of Friday, 20 May 2005, aboard a two-stage Delta 7320 rocket.

A perfectly routine countdown and adequate weather conditions at Vandenberg’s SLC-2W led to an on-time liftoff at the beginning of the window, with an official range time of 03:22:01.566 PDT. The Delta II Med-Lite vehicle quickly entered a low-hanging deck of clouds, and further tracking could only be provided by infrared camera and the announcements of the telemetry manager. SECO-1 occurred at T+11 minutes, 24 seconds, and the vehicle entered a long coast phase as it climbed to the apogee of a 100-by-468 nautical mile parking orbit.

At T+59 minutes, 26 seconds, the second stage restarted for a mere 13.3-second burn that circularised the orbit. At T+65 minutes, 44 seconds, the spacecraft was released into its operational orbit of 463.2 by 466.7 nautical miles at a 98.73-degree inclination. The Delta second stage then performed its evasive manoeuvre and depletion burn.

NOAA-N, to be known as NOAA-18 when operational, is a sun-synchronous polar-orbiting element of the POES (Polar Operational Environmental Satellites) constellation. In conjunction with the geostationary GOES system, which enables continuous but low-resolution sensing, POES provides highly detailed weather data as it travels in its relatively low orbit. A pair of POES satellites (NOAA-18 will operate in concert with NOAA-17, already in orbit) transmit images of the entire Earth’s surface every 12 hours.

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