18 June 2013

GOES 13 Weather Satellite Hit By Micrometeoroid

Posted by Dan Satterfield

The GOES 13 weather satellite problem a couple pf weeks ago was apparently caused by tiny meteorite travelling several kilometers per second.

From the National Environmental Satellite Data Information Service (NESDIS to we meteorologists):

NOAA returns a healthy GOES-13 to normal operations as


June 10, 2013

GOES SatelliteGOES-13 Satellite–Artist’s Rendering 

NOAA today officially returned the GOES-13 spacecraft to normal operations, after tests showed a micrometeoroid, likely hit the arm for the solar array panel on May 22, knocking the spacecraft off its delicate, geostationary balance.

The jolt caused GOES-13’s instruments to automatically shut down, and engineers put the satellite in a safe mode until they could analyze the problem. The team of engineers – from NOAA, NASA, Boeing and Exelis – determined the collision did not damage GOES-13’s instruments, or the satellite itself.

“Once again, NOAA has three, healthy geostationary satellites ready and able to track hurricanes, severe storms, floods and other dangerous weather conditions,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

On May 22, GOES-13, the GOES-East satellite, stopped producing imaging and sounding data. As an immediate, temporary measure, NOAA configured GOES-15, the West Coast satellite parked at 135 degrees longitude, to provide additional coverage of the eastern United States and part of the Atlantic Ocean. During the early hours of May 23, NOAA then activated GOES-14 from its orbital storage position at 105 degrees W longitude to provide coverage of the East Coast, as engineers continued to analyze GOES-13.

“Our established back-up plan worked,” Kicza said. “NOAA forecasters continued receiving valuable satellite images and data necessary to issue life-saving warnings for tornadoes and floods.”

At all times, NOAA operates two GOES spacecraft -one in the East and the other in the West- both hovering 22,300 miles above the equator. NOAA always keeps an additional GOES in orbital storage mode ready to step in if one of the active satellites experiences trouble.

NOAA manages the operational environmental satellite program and establishes requirements, provides all funding and distributes environmental satellite data for the United States. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., procures and manages the development and launch of the satellites for NOAA on a cost reimbursable basis.