NOAA Decommissions Aging Weather Satellite

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The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shut down its polar-orbiting NOAA-16 satellite June 9 after more than 13 years of operation, the agency said.

The satellite, launched in 2000 with a three- to five-year design life, had been operating in a backup role since 2005, when it was replaced by NOAA-18, NOAA said June 9. Both satellites were built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, California.

NOAA continues to operate four polar-orbiting weather satellites, the primary one being the Suomi NPP satellite built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, and launched in October 2011. That satellite was originally intended as a scientific platform and instrument testbed, but was thrust into an operational role following delays to a replacement for NOAA’s legacy polar-orbiting system.

In addition to NOAA-18, NOAA continues to operate the Lockheed Martin-built NOAA-15 and NOAA-19 satellites, launched in 1998 and 2009, respectively.

“Although NOAA-16 is retired, we still operate a dependable, robust fleet of satellites that continue to provide crucial data,” Mary Kicza, NOAA assistant administrator satellite and information services, said in a prepared statement.

NOAA’s next polar-orbiting weather satellite, the Ball-built the Joint Polar Satellite System 1, is slated to launch in 2017.