On April 1, 1960, TIROS 1 , the first polar-orbiting weather satellite, was launched from Cape Canaveral, FL. TIROS 1 (Television Infrared Observation Satellite) was the first attempt to determine the effectiveness of a meteorological observation satellite system in providing detailed and accurate data that could be used in weather analysis and forecasting. The program tested several configurations and the satellites eventually carried a variety of sensors, in addition to the television cameras that served as the main sensors on TIROS 1 . The success of the program lead to the development of an improved series of satellites called the Improved TIROS Operational System (ITOS).
The ITOS series of satellites were the second generation of operational polar-orbiting satellites. The first of the improved satellites was launched on January 23, 1970. Over the next six years, NOAA-1 through NOAA-5 were launched. NOAA-1 was the first to bear the NOAA name and the first satellite launched following the establishment of NOAA in October 1970. The ITOS series, after several reconfigurations, and additional and enhanced instruments, provided improved observations, higher resolution data, and expanded operational capabilities.
The TIROS - Next Generation (TIROS-N) satellite series followed the ITOS series. TIROS-N was the first satellite of its series, which was launched on October 13, 1978. The TIROS-N series introduced several technological improvements. The satellites carried the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) and the TIROS Operational Vertical Sounder (TOVS). A fully digital system replaced the old analog data relay system.
The TIROS-N series lead to the development of the Advanced TIROS-N (ATN) series. NOAA-8, the first satellite of this series, was launched on March 28, 1983. The major advancements in the ATN satellites were improved and additional instruments, as well as the addition of a Search and Rescue Satellite Aided System Tracking (SARSAT) package, which has the capability to detect distress signals.
NOAA-19, the fifth and last in the ATN series of satellites was launched on February 6, 2009.