Library Fact Sheets
DEFENSE WEATHER SYSTEMS DIRECTORATE|
Printable Fact Sheet
Develop, acquire, field and sustain affordable space and terrestrial weather systems to meet Department of Defense requirements
Be the provider of the most effective and affordable space and terrestrial weather systems
The Defense Weather Systems Directorate equips worldwide strategic and tactical forces with weather and space and terrestrial environmental data for planning and executing aerospace, ground and naval operations. The $3.8 billion program develops, acquires and sustains satellites, sensors and ground systems to meet warfighter requirements.
The directorate provides launch support, early orbit operations and spacecraft anomaly resolution of Department of Defense's sole operational weather satellite system. DWSD performs as the systems integrator for this multi-service program by developing, testing and acquiring satellites and ground equipment valued in excess of $3 billion.
DWSD also manages space weather systems, including the development, acquisition, and modernization or space and ground based solar, geomagnetic and ionosphere sensor systems. Other enhancements increased onboard processing to include multiple onboard computers, recorders and expanded power requirements.
DMSP satellites "see" such environmental features as clouds, bodies of water, snow, fire, and pollution in the visual and infrared spectra. The data can be used to determine cloud type and height, land and surface water temperatures, water currents, ocean surface features, ice, and snow. DMSP data is processed on the ground, interpreted by meteorologists, and ultimately used in planning and conducting U.S. military operations worldwide.
The DMSP program began in the mid 60's. Using a 90-pound, spin-stabilized satellite equipped with a shutter-style "TV" camera, these "Pioneers in Space" set out to collect the Earth's meteorological data for the DOD. These photos were relayed to the Earth and received by two Command/Readout Stations established at retired Nike Missile sites located near Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. and Loring Air Force Base, Maine.
From these sites, the photos were sent to Air Force Global Weather Central, now Air Force Weather Agency, located at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Here technicians would take the electronic data displayed on an oscilloscope and transform these electronic signals into Polaroid photographs. These snapshots would then be pieced together forming a mosaic representing the weather that was observed from the orbiting satellites. Meteorologists could then provide flight crews and other commanders with up-to-date observations for their particular missions. Some of the problems that were encountered with these vintage spacecraft were gaps in the photos and errors in storm location induced by poor-pointing accuracy of the satellites.
Spacecraft technology in the seventies brought about improved optics, signal processing, and hence larger payloads. With new optics, gaps in the photos were eliminated and the meteorological data could be gathered along the poorly illuminated horizon where the Sun was rising or setting. This gave meteorologists the ability to see what was coming up "around the bend." Further advancements enabled data to be collected in the visual spectrum down to a half-moonlit scene. Infrared processing enabled night viewing.
The late seventies and early eighties saw improvements made in attitude control by using inertial stellar navigation and flywheel stabilization. Other enhancements increased onboard processing to include multiple onboard computers and expanded power requirements. Current on-orbit spacecraft weight now exceeds 2,552 pounds and each satellite now has near-full redundancy for extended on-orbit life. Now in its fourth decade of service, the DMSP has proven itself to be a valuable tool in scheduling and protecting military operations on land, at sea, and in the air.
Related fact sheet: