Imagine the Universe!
Imagine Home | Satellites and Data |

Defense Meteorological Satellites Program (DMSP) series

artist concept of a DMSP satellite in orbit
Credit: Lockheed Martin

* Mission Overview

The US Air Force has responsibility for a program called the Defense Meteorological Satellites Program (DMSP) since the mid-1960s. They have launched a series of spacecraft to investigate the Earth's environment from an altitude of ~800 km. They were all put into Sun-synchronous near-polar orbits (inclination ~ 99 degrees). Of interest to the high-energy science community are DMSP 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.

DMSP 8 was launched 20 June 1987; last data were returned on 1 August 1994. DMSP 9 was launched 3 February 1988; last data were returned on 3 April 1992. DMSP 10 was launched 1 December 1990; last data were returned on 26 September 1994. DMSP 11 was launched 28 November 1991; first data were returned 6 December 1991. DMSP 12 was launched 29 August 1994; first data were returned 8 September 1994. DMSP 13 was launched 24 March 1995; DMSP 14 was launched on 4 April 1997 and DMSP 15 on 12 December 1999.

* Instrumentation

On-board each spacecraft were/are 2 gamma-ray detectors, each with ~ 100 cm2 detection area of NaI and charged particle shields. While passing through the outer Van Allen belts 4 times each orbit, and often through the South Atlantic Anomaly as well, led to a very high background, there were still long periods in each orbit in which cosmic gamma-ray events could be detected.

* Science

Several gamma-ray bursts have been reported in the data from DMSP satellites. Many of the bursts were also seen by other satellites, e.g. PVO, Ulysses, and CGRO. Now the DMSP satellites are part of the Interplanetary Network, IPN3, designed to localize Gamma-ray burst.

[Gallery] ( [Publications] ( [NOAA DMSP Page] (

Imagine the Universe is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Imagine Team
Acting Project Leader: Dr. Barbara Mattson
All material on this site has been created and updated between 1997-2012.

DVD Table of Contents
Educator's Index