WASHINGTON — The primary geostationary satellite that tracks severe weather threatening the eastern United States resumed service June 10, roughly three weeks after it was idled by what its operator, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says was a collision with a tiny space rock. 

The Geostationary-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-13 satellite returned to active duty as GOES East in its orbital slot at 75 degrees west longitude, NOAA said in a June 10 press release.

“NOAA today officially returned the GOES-13 spacecraft to normal operations, after tests showed a micrometeoroid, likely hit the arm for the solar array panel on May 22, knocking the spacecraft off its delicate, geostationary balance,” NOAA said. 

After GOES-13 was knocked out of service, NOAA elected to conserve the satellite’s on-board propellent by leaving it in its usual orbital slot while the agency diagnosed the problem. In the meantime, NOAA activated a spare satellite, GOES-14 at 105 degrees west, to cover the eastern part of the country.

NOAA maintains two operational GOES satellites about 36,000 kilometers above the equator overlooking the East and West coasts of the U.S. mainland. Each satellite has an imager, which monitors storms and cloud coverage, and a sounder, which takes vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature and humidity. NOAA also maintains a third GOES satellite as a backup. 

GOES-13 would have resumed operations June 6, but a tropical storm that hit the U.S. East Coast that day, and moved north throughout the weekend, forced NOAA to postpone the transfer to keep GOES-14’s storm-watching capabilities up and running, the agency said in a short note on its website. 

“The planned GOES-13 return to GOES-East operations scheduled for today, June 6, 2013 at 1534 UTC, has been postponed due to a Critical Weather Day and Tropical Storm Andrea,” NOAA wrote June 6. 


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Dan Leone is the NASA reporter for SpaceNews, where he also covers other civilian-run U.S. government space programs and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He joined SpaceNews in 2011.Dan earned a bachelor's degree in public communications...