NOAA 2004-060
Contact: John Leslie

NOAA News Releases 2004
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NOAA-11, the nation’s longest serving polar-orbiting satellite, was deactivated this week, after 15 years of capturing essential environmental data and surpassing its originally estimated life span six times over.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially shut down critical components and transmitters for the satellite, after it had circled the Earth more than 80,000 times — from the North to South poles. From 1988 to 1994, NOAA-11 supplied the nation with images crucial to accurate weather and climate forecasting. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Shutting down the transmitters and other equipment will keep NOAA-11, which is now in permanent orbital storage, from interfering with other satellite frequencies. In 1995, NOAA-11 was placed in a standby mode, but was reactivated to provide sounding data after NOAA-12's sounding instrument failed. Since 2000, NOAA-11 has again been on a standby status. The polar satellites, NOAA-16 and NOAA-17, are still in operation.

“NOAA-11 had an incredible run,” said Gregory W. Withee, assistant administrator for the NOAA Satellites and Information Service. “NOAA satellites are designed to operate for only two and a half years, but NOAA-11 lasted 15 years. That is a credit to the engineers who built it, and the technology that sustained it.”

When it was launched on Sept. 9, 1988, NOAA-11 was a third-generation operational meteorological satellite, and considered an advance from earlier spacecraft for its ability to provide higher resolution global data and images. The satellite’s design provided a platform for its advanced instruments to measure the Earth’s atmosphere, surface, cloud cover and the near-space environment.

“At that time, the technology on NOAA-11 gave us more day and nighttime environmental data on local and global scales than any satellite before it,” Withee added. “That further increased scientists’ ability to develop more precise long-range weather and climate forecasts.”

The rectangular-shaped spacecraft, which weighs 2,000 pounds, was the companion to the NOAA-10 polar-orbiting satellite. In addition to tracking weather and climate data, NOAA-11 was key in NOAA’s search and rescue operations. It relayed distress signals transmitted by emergency beacons aboard airplanes and boats.

NOAA operates two polar-orbiting environmental satellites, or POES, and two geostationary-operational environmental satellites, or GOES. In all, NOAA controls 16 spacecraft, including two operational satellites within the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (an additional three are back-ups and one is non-operational), three additional back-up POES, and one additional operating GOES, which is being used by Japan.

NOAA’s Satellites and Information Service is America’s primary source of space-based oceanographic, meteorological and climate data. It operates the nation’s environmental satellites, which are used for ocean and weather observation and forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications. Some of the oceanographic applications include sea-surface temperature for hurricane and weather forecasting and sea-surface heights for El Niño prediction.

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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