New Weather Satellite Being Checked Out In Stationary Orbit
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Ground controllers today began a month-long series of tests aimed at making a new weather satellite operational by April 1, in time for the hurricane season.
The GOES-7 satellite was locked in stationary orbit above the Atlantic Ocean on Friday by a small onboard motor triggered a day early because of a heater problem.
″The firing went fine; there were no problems,″ said Larry Heacock, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s satellite operations center.
The $55 million satellite was launched Thursday by a Delta rocket that propelled it into a highly elliptical orbit ranging from 140 miles to 26,150 miles above the globe.
The firing of the onboard motor arrested the satellite 22,237 miles high. At that altitude, a spacecraft travels at the same speed as the rotation of the Earth and thus hovers over one spot on the globe.
Heacock said that soon after launching, trackers detected the spacecraft motor was overheating, apparently because of a faulty thermostat on a heater.
″We switched to the backup heater, but it started to run off, too,″ he said. ″The solution was to control the temperature by watching it and turning the heater on only when necessary.″
Because the tedious work would have required constant attention, he said the decision was made to ignite the motor a day earlier than planned.
During the next month, controllers will thoroughly test all satellite systems and then move GOES-7, which stands for geostationay operational environmental satellite, to a new station farther east over the Atlantic.
About the same time, a sister satellite, GOES-6, will be shifted from a point south of Texas to a station over the Pacific Ocean. That will form a fully operational network that will keep an eye on weather patterns in a wide area ranging from the mid-Pacific to the eastern Atlantic, including the hurricane-spawning grounds off the coast of west Africa.