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DMSP Flight-13 reaches major milestone

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program celebrated its 50th anniversary back in 2012, propelling it into the history books as the longest running production satellite program ever. For more than a third of that time DMSP Flight-13 has been on orbit, providing weather data to our nation's warfighters. On Aug. 6, the DMSP program achieved another milestone when F-13 became the first operational DMSP satellite to reach 100,000 revolutions around the Earth.

Launched on March 24, 1995, F-13 was the eighth of nine DMSP Block 5D-2 satellites. It is in a sun-synchronous, polar orbit, with an altitude of 450 nautical miles, 98.7 degree inclination, traveling nearly 17,000 miles per hour. In this orbit it takes F-13 roughly 101 minutes to complete one revolution.

While F-13 itself required no special preparation to cross the 100,000 revolution mark, the same could not be said for DMSP's ground system components. A number of mission planning and data processing systems had not been designed to account for six-digit revolution numbers. To prepare for this, the 50th Space Wing coordinated between the Air Force Weather Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and contractor Harris IT Services to implement necessary modifications and testing prior to the big day.

"With nearly two decades of operational service, DMSP F-13 stands as a testament to the exceptional skill and dedication of the DMSP operators, engineers and support team," said Maj. Jonathan Whitaker, commander of the 50th Operations Group Detachment 1, the unit charged with overseeing DMSP operations.

Fortunately, F-13 sailed past the 100,000 mark without a hitch, and continues on toward its next milestone, the satellite's 20th launch anniversary in 2015.
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