NOAA weather satellite transitions to new role for US military – Spaceflight Now

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A view of Earth from the EWS-G1 satellite, formerly known as GOES-13, taken on September 1, 2020, from its new location over the Indian Ocean. Credit: US Space Force MARK IV-B Program Office

A weather satellite built and launched for NOAA in 2006 to help track hurricanes approaching the United States has been repositioned to monitor weather conditions in the Middle East to support US military operations in the region.

The GOES-13 satellite, no longer needed to monitor weather over the United States, was transferred from NOAA to the US Air Force last year under an interagency agreement. The Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center announced Sept. 8 that the spacecraft had arrived and begun operations at a new location in geostationary orbit above the Indian Ocean.

The spacecraft was renamed the Geostationary Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System 1, or EWS-G1, spacecraft.

The EWS-G1 spacecraft is the first geostationary weather satellite owned by the Department of Defense, the Space Force said in a statement. “The satellite provides timely characterization of clouds and theater weather imagery to DoD in the Indian Ocean region, supporting the needs of Central Command and other theaters of operations,” the Army said.

Central Command oversees US military operations in the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, including Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Space and Missile Systems Center said the transfer and relocation of the newly renamed EWS-G1 satellite was the culmination of joint efforts between the Space Force, NOAA and NASA.

Launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Delta 4 rocket in 2006, the GOES-13 satellite became the primary weather observatory for NOAA’s GOES-East location in 2010. From a roost over 22,000 miles ( nearly 36,000 kilometers) above the equator, GOES-13 imager and sounder instruments tracked tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, and monitored the severe weather, snowstorms and other weather systems in the eastern half of the United States.

In geostationary orbit, satellites move around the Earth at the same rate as the planet rotates. These orbits are useful for communications satellites and weather observatories, giving spacecraft constant coverage over the same part of the planet.

GOES-13 was the first in a series of three NOAA geostationary weather satellites built by Boeing and launched in 2006, 2009 and 2010. Despite problems with its solar-powered imager and sounder, GOES-13 remained in service providing imagery meteorologists until the more capable GOES-16 satellite took over the GOES-East position in December 2017.

NOAA then moved GOES-13 to an in-orbit storage location until the satellite was transferred to the military in 2019.

The GOES-17 satellite, which was launched in 2018, currently serves as NOAA’s GOES-West weather tracking satellite in the western United States and the Pacific Ocean. NOAA also has GOES-14 and GOES-15 available as spares.

Artist’s rendering of the GOES-13 satellite. Credit: NASA

“EWS-G1 is an excellent example of innovation and mobilizing partnerships. SMC has partnered with NOAA and NASA to provide visible and infrared geostationary cloud characterization and theater weather imagery in the Indian Ocean region,” said Charlotte Gerhart, Orbit Division Chief. low ground of the production corps of the Space and Missile Systems Center.

“This effort demonstrates speed by allowing the spacecraft to be moved and operated in the Indian Ocean region long before a new satellite can be produced and commissioned,” Gerhart said in a statement. “Repurposing GOES-13 and residual NOAA ground equipment accomplished the mission at a fraction of the cost of purchasing an all-new system.”

NOAA will continue to operate the EWS-G1 satellite on behalf of Space Force for its remaining life from the agency’s operating facilities in Suitland, Maryland.

After arriving at its new operating site, the satellite underwent a “thorough checkout” of its spacecraft and sensor systems, the Space Force said.

Before taking over the GOES-13 satellite to become EWS-G1, the military used meteorological images from the European Meteosat 8 satellite positioned in geostationary orbit above the Indian Ocean. Meteosat 8 is expected to run out of fuel around 2022.

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