NOAA Retires GOES-7 after 25 Years As a Weather and Communications Satellite
This week, the GOES-7 satellite, one of NOAA's earliest geostationary satellites, was moved into a higher orbit and retired from service. Launched in 1987, GOES-7 first served as a critical weather satellite, capturing images of developing hurricanes and other severe storms that impacted the United States.
In 1999, when its Earth-observing instruments degraded past operational use, NOAA leased GOES-7 to the Pan-Pacific Education and Communication Experiments by Satellite (PEACESAT) program, which used the satellite to provide communications for the Pacific islands.
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PEACESAT, managed in part by the University of Hawaii at Manoa, allows doctors in the Hawaii and the continental United States to meet with Pacific Islanders through video teleconference consultations as a means of providing health services to remote areas.
"When the advanced geostationary satellites were ready to launch, NOAA decided to lease GOES-7 to PEACESAT," said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service. "The communications instruments were still in good shape, and we were happy PEACESAT could use it."
GOES-7 is the only satellite in the history of NOAA's geostationary program to serve both as the GOES-East and GOES-West spacecraft in the course of normal operations. When its predecessor GOES-6 failed, GOES-7 was the sole geostationary spacecraft from 1989 to 1994. Engineers moved the spacecraft from a western position in the winter to cover Pacific storms into California and the northwest to an eastern position in the summer to cover east coast hurricanes. GOES-7 provided vital imagery of the deadly Hurricane Andrew as it tore through southern Florida in 1992.
On April 12, GOES-7 was "retired" from service through a final burn from its booster, which moved it approximately 186 miles (300 km) above its operational geostationary orbit to a "graveyard orbit", such that it will not interfere with other satellites. The final maneuver to adjust the spin rate of the spacecraft and deplete all remaining fuel happened at 2 a.m. EDT today. The communications packages were turned off then and the satellite powered down.
Currently, NOAA operates GOES-13 and GOES-15, which are providing continuous coverage of the United States and the Western Hemisphere. NOAA also has two other geostationary satellites in orbit - GOES-12, which provides data for meteorologists in South America, and GOES-14, which is in storage orbit as a ready replacement.
NOAA is planning the next generation of geostationary satellites, called GOES-R, with the first poised to launch in 2015. 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. In addition, data from GOES-R instruments will be used to create many different products NOAA meteorologists and others will use to monitor the atmosphere, land, ocean and the sun.
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