NOAA 2003-040
Contact: John Leslie
NOAA News Releases 2003
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GOES-12, the nation’s latest and most advanced environmental satellite, was activated today from an on-orbit storage mode, replacing the older GOES-8, which has hovered above the East Coast and Atlantic Ocean for nearly 10 years. GOES, which stands for geostationary operational environmental satellites, are key to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather forecast operations. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Among the sophisticated instruments onboard GOES-12 is the world’s most advanced solar storm detector, the Solar X-ray Imager (SXI). The SXI provides space weather forecasters with real-time images of the sun’s broiling atmosphere. This information helps pinpoint when solar activity might harm billions of dollars worth of commercial and government assets in space and on land.

“Better satellites produce better data, which lead to better forecasts,” said Greg Withee, director of the NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NOAA Satellite and Information). “When faced with a developing tropical storm, tornado or flood, meteorologist will now have critical data from GOES-12,” he added, referring to forecasters at NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS), a prime user of satellite information.

GOES data, combined with data from Doppler radar and automated surface observing systems, help NWS forecasters issue short-term weather forecasts and warnings.

NOAA operates two GOES – one over the East Coast, and the other, GOES-10, above the West Coast, the Pacific Ocean and Hawaii – 22,300 miles over the equator. Launched in July 2001, GOES-12 has been in on-orbit storage mode, while NOAA engineers kept it ready for action.

An operational GOES spacecraft has a design life of five years in orbit, and has a 10-year fuel supply. “If a satellite exceeds its life span, the extra fuel can keep it operational, maximizing the taxpayer investment,” said Kathleen Kelly, head of satellite operations at NOAA Satellite and Information.

She added that GOES-10, which was launched in 1997, already has exceeded the typical life span, but is showing “no signs of imminent failure” on any of its systems. GOES-10 will exhaust its fuel supply in January 2006, and is scheduled to be replaced by GOES-11.

NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite Data, and Information Service (NOAA Satellites and Information) is the nation’s primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. NOAA Satellite and Information operates the nation’s environmental satellites, which are used for weather and ocean observation and forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications, such as fire detection, ozone monitoring and sea surface temperature measurements.

NOAA Satellite and Information Services also operates three data centers that house global databases in climatology, oceanography, solid Earth geophysics, marine geology and geophysics, solar-terrestrial physics and paleoclimatology.

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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