NOAA-19 (NOAA-N Prime) is the fifth and last in the current series of polar-orbiting satellites was launched on February 6, 2009 and is currently designated as the PM primary satellite. The satellite provides an essential resource for NOAA's long-range weather and climate forecasts and improve U.S. search and rescue operations. It was renamed NOAA-19 after achieving proper orbit.
As it orbits Earth, NOAA-N Prime collects data about Earth's surface and atmosphere, which are vital inputs to NOAA's long-range Earth weather and climate outlooks, including forecasts for El Niño and La Niña.
NOAA-N Prime has imaging and sounding capabilities that are broadcast around the world and recorded on board for playback over the NOAA and European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellite ground stations. Space weather instruments provide data useful for warnings of solar winds that may impair communications, damage satellites and power systems, and affect astronaut safety.
NOAA-N Prime has instruments to support the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System, or SARSAT, which is part of the international satellite system, including the Russian provided satellites called COSPAS. Since SARSAT was established in 1982, NOAA polar-orbiting satellites have been detecting emergency distress beacons sent by aviators, mariners and individuals in remote locations and relaying them to ground stations so that rescue teams may be dispatched. More than 28,000 lives have been saved through the satellite-based search and rescue system to date. NOAA-N Prime was the last satellite in this series of polar-orbiting satellites.
A new generation of polar orbiting satellites called the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), will become operational after the POES complete their mission.
Metop-A (launched on 19 October 2006) and Metop-B (launched on 17 September 2012) are in a lower polar orbit, at an altitude of 817 kilometres, to provide more detailed observations of the global atmosphere, oceans and continents. The two satellites will operate in parallel for as long as Metop-A's available capacities bring benefits to users. Metop-C is planned to be launched in October 2018.
Metop carries a set of 'heritage' instruments provided by the United States and a new generation of European instruments that offer improved remote sensing capabilities to both meteorologists and climatologists. These instruments augment the accuracy of temperature humidity measurements, readings of wind speed and direction, and atmospheric ozone profiles.