NOAA Shuffles Geostationary Satellites In Wake of GOES-13 Anomaly

NOAA Shuffles Geostationary Satellites In Wake of GOES-13 Anomaly

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is moving an on-orbit spare satellite into position to replace a geostationary weather satellite that suddenly malfunctioned in late September.  

NOAA maintains two Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) above the equator in positions that cover the east and west portions of the United States and adjacent ocean areas.   GOES-13 has been the GOES-East satellite since 2010 and GOES-15 is in the GOES-West position.  NOAA operates both polar-orbiting and geostationary weather satellites.  The geostationary satellites are particularly useful for monitoring tropical regions where hurricanes form.

The sounder and imager instruments on GOES-13 were turned off on September 23 after they malfunctioned for still unknown reasons.  NOAA immediately configured GOES-15 to provide additional coverage of the U.S. East Coast and also turned to data from Europe’s METEOSAT-9 to ensure adequate coverage of the tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean.  The United States and Europe have a long standing partnership in both polar-orbiting and geostationary weather satellites and share data and back each other up when needed.

Meanwhile, NOAA began activating GOES-14, an on-orbit spare that has been in orbit since 2009.  It will take 33 days to move it into the GOES-East position.    GOES-13 will be moved to the “on-orbit spare” orbital location while engineers attempt to determine what went wrong. 

GOES-13 was launched in 2006 and was itself an on-orbit spare until it was placed into service in 2010.   GOES-14 was launched in 2009.  GOES-15 was launched in 2010 and became the operational GOES-West satellite in December 2011.

NOAA’s geostationary weather satellites have letter designations until they are launched.  GOES-15 was formerly known as GOES-P.  There is no GOES-Q.  NOAA is currently developing the next generation of GOES satellites — the GOES-R series — with first launch expected in 2015.

NOAA’s management of weather satellite development programs is under scrutiny, but its role as the operator of those satellites is not being questioned.

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