Thursday, December 06, 2007


I had to change over the IR satellite imagery to COD stuff, as GOES-12 has been having some major problems. So far as I understand it, NASA/NOAA were doing a small maneuver to the spacecraft (that's what it is, a spacecraft) on December 4, and lost control of it; it's now semi-controlled but having "attitude errors" (meaning, I think, it's wobbling uncontrollably). The attitude errors continue today and it's unclear as to whether or not they'll regain control.

In the meantime, what they did was take GOES-10 (which is at about 60° west, in coverage for South America, as opposed to the 75° west for GOES-12) and recalibrate it so that it covers eastern North America. Essentially, in the day it took to do that, eastern North America was barely covered by any weather satellite.

Late yesterday, an update message was sent, and although it seemed innocuous (details about the 12 to 10 switchover, and technical help for those taking care of such things), the following sentence was buried in the message:

"NESDIS engineers are also working on procedures to bring GOES-13 out of storage and into on-orbit mode."

Wow. GOES-13 was launched last year, was tested last December-January, and is sitting in wait mode in orbit at 105° west. Mentioning this at all tells me that there's either a) concern that it may take a while to restore GOES-12 (especially seeing as how it would take about a week to get 13 into place), or b) they've just lost GOES-12 but aren't yet willing to say it.

Really, I think this should be a pretty big story--not the screwup, because we're all human, and things happen--especially with sensitive pieces of high-tech equipment over 35,000 km away. But I think it should be a big story because it very vividly ascertains the importance of weather satellites. I don't know if it could have had more impact had it been any other--GOES-12 is the main one for North America.

To follow the official messages, go to this website:


At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GOES-13 reference has been corrected.

I agree it should be a bigger story -- and if there was a "screw up" maybe that should be a story itself, depending on what exactly went wrong.


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