A view of the Earth from the EWS-G1 satellite taken on September 1, 2020. Credit: U.S. Space Force’s MARK IV-B Program Office

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force announced that a geostationary weather satellite previously owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is now in service for the military providing coverage over the Indian Ocean.

A satellite that NOAA first launched in 2006 and retired in 2018 has been repurposed as the Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System – Geostationary, or EWS-G1.

The Space Delta 2 at Peterson-Schriever Garrison, Colorado, declared the satellite operational on Sept. 1. NOAA is operating EWS-G1 for the military collecting weather imagery over the Indian Ocean region in support of U.S. Central Command.

“EWS-G1 is the first Department of Defense owned geostationary weather satellite,” the Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center said Sept. 8 in a news release. “The satellite provides timely cloud characterization and theater weather imagery to DoD in the Indian Ocean region, addressing needs across Central Command and other operating theaters.”

The U.S. Air Force in 2017 revealed it was in discussions with NOAA about the possibility of taking over one of the agency’s GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite).

The Air Force for years relied on an aging European weather satellites to provide coverage over the Indian Ocean and in 2019 worked out an agreement to take over GOES-13 from NOAA.

NOAA decommissioned GOES-13 in 2018 and replaced it with a new spacecraft GOES-16. GOES-13 for more than a decade was a critical source of information during major U.S. weather events such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012. GOES-13 was launched in 2006 aboard a Boeing Delta 4 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

NOAA’s spacecraft was moved to the Indian Ocean region “far earlier than a new satellite could be produced and fielded,” said Charlotte Gerhart, SMC’s Production Corps Low Earth Orbit Division chief. “The repurposing of GOES-13, and residual NOAA ground equipment, accomplished the mission at a fraction of the procurement cost of a brand new system.”

After the relocation maneuver, NOAA and the U.S. Space Force completed a checkout of the EWS-G1 spacecraft and sensors. EWS-G1 is now providing weather data to DoD forecasters, SMC said.

NOAA will continue to operate EWS-G1 on behalf of the U.S. Space Force for its remaining life span from the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland, and Wallops Command and Data Acquisition Station in Virginia.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...