NOAA 2001-086
Contact: Pat Viets

GOES-12 Cued for Weather and Solar Flare Warnings

After a 20-day journey and nine motor firings, the nation's newest environmental satellite - equipped with the latest solar flare warning technology - has safely reached orbit 22,300 miles above the equator with an eye toward North and South America, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported today.

The NOAA geostationary satellite was re-named GOES-12 after reaching its operational orbit. Launched as GOES-M from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on July 23, the satellite is the last in the current series of five advanced NOAA weather satellites operated by NOAA and designed to improve forecasting of Earth and space weather. GOES-12 will remain in operational storage until called upon to replace one of the two older geostationary satellites that could expire in the next year or two.

"When we need to tap this satellite, GOES-12 will guarantee a seamless stream of weather observations and atmospheric measurements for the United States," said Kathy Kelly, director of satellite operations at NOAA. "It will ensure that NOAA's weather and space forecasters have the data they need to issue life-saving warnings and forecasts."

The agency operates two geostationary and two polar-orbiting satellites that provide meteorologists information vital to timely and accurate forecasts. GOES-12 is the first to have a sophisticated operational instrument for detecting solar storms. The solar X-ray imager is the most advanced instrument of its kind, able to take a full and detailed snapshot of the sun's atmosphere each minute. The first test image is expected on August 29.

The X-ray images from GOES-12 will be used by NOAA and the U.S. Air Force to forecast the intensity and speed of solar disturbances that could destroy satellite electronics, disrupt long-distance radio communications or surge power grids. The imager enables forecasters to better protect billions of dollars worth of commercial and government assets in space and on the ground.

The data gathered by the GOES satellites, combined with data from Doppler radars and the automated surface observing system, greatly aid forecasters in providing better advance warnings of thunderstorms, flash floods, hurricanes, winter storms and other severe weather; which can save lives, preserve property, and benefit marine, aviation and commercial interests across the country. In addition, the satellites can relay distress signals from people, aircraft, or ships to search and rescue ground stations of the search and rescue satellite-aided tracking system.

GOES-8, the first state-of-the-art geostationary environmental satellite, was launched April 13, 1994. It is currently positioned at 75 degrees west longitude, overlooking the east coast of North and South America and well into the Atlantic Ocean. GOES-10, launched April 25, 1997, is overlooking the West Coast and well into the Pacific Ocean and Alaska.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages satellite design, development and launch, and on-orbit checkout of the spacecraft for NOAA.

NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service operates the GOES series of satellites. After the satellites complete on-orbit checkout, NESDIS assumes responsibility for command and control, data receipt, and product generation and distribution. NESDIS is the nation's primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. NESDIS' environmental satellites are used for weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and other environmental applications such as fire detection, ozone monitoring, and sea surface temperature measurements.

Editors Notes:
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