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NOAA Retires Satellite After 10 Years

Hurricane Katrina

WASHINGTON D.C. — The GOES-12 satellite has seen a lot in it’s days, from Hurricane Katrina that slammed New Orleans in 2005, to the Christmas blizzard that paralyzed the Central United States in 2009. After contributing 10 years of loyal service to the Western Hemisphere, the spacecraft is being retired.

NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-12, long-lived it’s expected lifespan of just two years for orbit-storage and five years of actual operations to support forecasters and scientists apart of the National Weather Service (NWS). An animation of the 10 years of satellite imagery can be found here.

It was launched on July 23, 2001 and became operational April 1, 2003, lasting well beyond it’s expected years. By May of 2010,  the spacecraft was no longer able to be maintained to meet NWS requirements, and then transitioned to a new role in the science community. The satellite provided coverage of weather conditions across South America, including volcanic ash clouds, wildfires and droughts.

When a geostationary satellite, such as GOES-12, is decommissioned, the spacecraft is moved further into space to reduce the chances of any collisions in the orbit. The remaining fuel is expended, the battery disabled and the transmitters turned off.

Currently in commission is the GOES-12 satellite, hovering 22,300 miles above the Equator and serving as the GOES East satellite. The GOES West satellite is known as the GOES-15. NOAA has an additional spacecraft which serves as the backup and can be activated in the event that any others experience trouble- the GOES 14.

GOES-R is expected to more than double the clarity of today’s GOES imagery and provide more atmospheric observations than current capabilities with more frequent images. GOES-R will also carry a new Geostationary Lightning Mapper that will provide for the first time a continuous surveillance of total lightning activity throughout the Americas and adjacent oceans.