EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force says it has taken delivery of the latest defense weather satellite with plans to launch it next spring.
The military satellites are critical to global U.S. defense and security operations as they help military commanders in the decision-making processes in war zones as well as in peacetime activities.
All defense weather satellites launched over the past 50 years also featured capacity for civilian use. About 50 have been delivered during the period.
The latest satellite delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., is the 19th of its kind.
An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft operated by the 60th Air Mobility Wing from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., transported the defense meteorological satellite from Sunnyvale, Calif., to Vandenberg, officials said.
The satellite will undergo final launch preparations, encapsulation and transport to Space Launch Complex 3 East at Vandenberg over the next 250 days. The craft is on track for a March launch.
It will be the first launch of a defense meteorological satellite since Oct. 18, 2009.
The delivery involved USAF personnel and team members from aerospace and defense manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Lockheed Martin's Sue Stretch said the company was proud to have its fourth Block 5D-3 spacecraft at the launch site.
"We've produced almost 50 defense weather satellites in 50 years, and our block 5D3 DMSP satellites deliver evolved capability," said Stretch, the satellite program's director at Lockheed Martin.
The Air Force and Lockheed have been working together since the start of the defense weather satellites program. Over the years, a variety of launch vehicles have been used to put the satellites into orbit.
The satellites monitor meteorological, oceanographic and solar-terrestrial physics. Begun in the 1960s as a classified program, the satellites' mission was finally made public in 1973. Increased sophistication of warfare, defense readiness and national security measures has put new demands on the satellites' capabilities.
The craft are meant to fulfill the military's critical requirements for global atmospheric, oceanic, terrestrial and space environment information. Military users find, track and forecast weather systems over remote and hostile areas for deployed troops.
The Space and Missile Systems Center located at Los Angeles Air Force Base is the Air Force's center of acquisition for acquiring and developing military space systems. The center manages more than $60 billion in contracts and employs more than 6,200 people worldwide.
Lockheed Martin has headquarters in Bethesda, Md., and employs about 116,000 people worldwide. The company reported net sales of $47.2 billion in 2012.