For over 50 years satellites orbiting high above the Earth have provided an eye in the sky invaluable to monitoring and understanding weather and climate. This week NOAA retired one of its most prominent spacecraft and released a time lapse video showing 10 years of weather.
NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) 12 was launched on July 23, 2001 and became operational April 1, 2003 as the GOES-East satellite. The past three years saw its focus shifted from North America to South America.
Over the 10 year lifespan the spacecraft performed virtually flawlessly as it kept an eye on the Western Hemisphere from its perch 22,300 miles above the surface.
During its service the craft, operated jointly by NOAA and NASA, witnessed Hurricane Katrina, watched wildfires scorch millions of acres, blizzards pound the Northeast and provided invaluable views of severe weather outbreaks across the United States.
The video released by NOAA captures all of those events providing a testimony to its usefulness during its service life.
GOES-12 will be sent to a higher, geostationary orbit where its fuel will be expended, batteries disabled and transmitters silenced.
In its wake, GOES-13 will serve as the GOES East satellite and GOES-15 as the GOES West satellite. GOES-14 is in orbit and serves as a spare should the primary East or West craft malfunction.
The next generation of GOES spacecraft is nearing completion. The first GOES-R satellite is expected to be launched in 2015 with enhanced capabilities including a new Geostationary Lightning Mapper.