NASA will continue to operate the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) spacecraft through spring 2005. TRMM has yielded significant scientific research data over the past seven years to users around the globe, four years beyond its original design life. TRMM data has aided the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other users in their scientific research, understanding of rainfall and storm prediction, and by demonstrating its benefits in operational forecasts.
The extension followed release of interim report recommendations today from the National Academy of Science’s (NAS) Committee on the Future of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission. The Committee “strongly recommended continued operation of TRMM, at least until such time as a decision on controlled reentry becomes unavoidable.”
NASA and NOAA asked the NAS last summer to convene a workshop to advise on the best use of TRMM’s remaining spacecraft life; the overall risks and benefits of the TRMM mission extension options; the advisability of transfer of operational responsibility for TRMM to NOAA; any requirement for a follow-on operational satellite to provide comparable TRMM data; and optimal use of Global Precipitation Measurement mission, a follow-on research spacecraft to TRMM, planned for launch at decade’s end. The ad hoc expert NAS Committee will issue a final report next summer.
“NASA recognizes the sustained value of TRMM data to the community and appreciates the Academy’s thorough and thoughtful consideration of the future of this mission,” said Deputy Associate Administrator for Science of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Dr. Ghassem Asrar. “With this additional mission extension, however, we continue to be vigilant in maintaining our requirement for an eventual safe, controlled re-entry and deorbit of the spacecraft,” he said.
Launched in 1997, TRMM was originally designed as a three-year research mission. Following four years of extending TRMM, NASA and its mission partner, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, planned to decommission TRMM and proceed with a safe, controlled deorbit. NASA’s extension of TRMM last fall ensured observations through the hurricane season. The extension accommodated a request from NOAA.