A satellite salute....(4-18-12)
There was a passing of sorts last week in the world of meteorological hardware. It deserves a brief mention because during the 1980s and 1990s you would see its handy work on a daily basis if you watched a TV weathercast. I’m talking about the GOES 7 satellite.It was launched in 1987 and like all GOES ( Geostationary Operational Enviromental Satellite) it was placed in an orbit 22,000 miles above the earth. That’s important because at that height/orbit, the satellite will rotate around the earth at the same speed as the earth is spinning. This means the satellite appears to stay above the same spot on the earth 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.The GOES 7 was unique because in the late 1980s and early 1990s it was the only GOES satellite covering the United States. Typically there is one in orbit focused on the Western United States while another keeps in an eye on the eastern United States. In 1989, the western U.S. GOES satellite (GOES 6) failed leaving meteorologists in a bind. How would they get up to date pictures of the West and and eastern Pacific Ocean? The folks at NOAA had a plan. In the summer and fall GOES 7 would stay over the Eastern U.S. to cover the all important Atlantic hurricane season. For the winter season, engineers would move the GOES 7 farther to the west to have a clear view of storms coming off the Pacific. This continued until 1994 when a new GOES satellite was put into orbit giving the U.S. full coverage.During this time, GOES 7 documented many important weather events but none bigger than the Category 5 Hurricane Andrew that slammed into southern Florida in late August 1992. Here is a view of the storm from the GOES 7 satellite:
After 1999 the GOES 7 mission to take satellite pictures was done but since it’s communication instruments were still function properly it was used as a communications satellite over the Pacific. Last week, GOES 7 was placed in what is called a ‘graveyard orbit’ about 200 miles above its working orbit. Well done GOES 7!Currently, our satellite pictures come from GOES 13 and 15 and in just 3 years a new generation of satellite, GOES-R, will be sent up into space. They will give us higher resolution and more frequent satellite pictures and provide more observation of the atmosphere.
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