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GOES-12 Retired after 10 Years in Orbit

In April 2003, GOES-12 became GOES-East, but in 2010, GOES-13 (above) took over GOES-East duties and GOES-12, which by then was suffering from thruster problems, was repositioned for coverage of South America. Credit: NASA photo

WASHINGTON — After 10 years of monitoring severe weather along the North and South American coasts, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-12 was boosted to a graveyard orbit Aug. 16 and switched off, a spokesman for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

“That all happened Friday afternoon,” NOAA spokesman John Leslie said in an Aug. 19 email.

GOES-12, built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., launched in July 2001. In April 2003, it became GOES-East, the constellation’s primary observer of extreme weather along the U.S. East Coast. In 2010, GOES-13 took over GOES-East duties and GOES-12, which by then was suffering from thruster problems, was repositioned for coverage of South America. 

Even discounting the three years over South America, GOES-12 exceeded its design life by about three years, NOAA said in an Aug. 19 post on its website.

Currently, the U.S. geostationary weather constellation consists of GOES-13, -14 and -15, which were built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, Calif., for 10-year missions. These spacecraft launched in 2006, 2009 and 2010, respectively.

GOES-13, now the primary East Coast satellite, is located at 75 degrees west longitude, while GOES-15 provides West Coast coverage at 135 degrees west. GOES-14, stationed at 105 degrees west as an on-orbit backup, has been activated twice since 2012 because of problems with GOES-13’s imaging and sounding instruments.

The next four GOES satellites, GOES-R, -S, -T and -U, will be built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver. They are respectively slated for launch in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2024. Lockheed Martin wrested the GOES contract from incumbent Boeing in 2008, at which time the deal was worth about $1 billion. The contract is now worth about $1.357 billion, including approximately $315.6 million worth of options NOAA picked up in February for GOES-T and -U.

Article Comments

One of the things lacking in the efforts to jump-start an in-orbit robotic space services industry, including refueling, is a real demonstration on a real satellite at or near geosynch (which is where Willy Sutton would choose to demonstrate the capability, since that's where the money is). One way to get this demo would be for NASA to demonstrate the technology as a follow-on to its RRM/Robotic Refueling Mission at ISS by sending a servicer to demonstrate on a government-owned satellite that was never meant to be serviced and that is past its end of life - such as GOES-12, or a retired TDRS satellite. If GOES-12, no matter how hobbled, could be reactivated for such a demo, using it could provide the confidence needed to jump-start a new space industry.

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