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Western Weather Satellite to Look Away Briefly

August 21, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Shine a bright light into someone’s eyes and they turn away. Same goes for weather satellites.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is turning its GOES-9 weather satellite a bit over the next two weeks as an experiment, hoping to prevent overheating from sunlight shining into the satellite’s ``eye.″

If it works, it could become a regular practice four times a year when the light is most intense, NOAA officials said Tuesday.

Normally, GOES-9 stares at the Earth continually, watching weather patterns over the western half of the country and the Pacific Ocean.

But the researchers have discovered that, at certain times of year, the sun shining past the edge of the Earth directly at the satellite, can cause overheating.

``GOES-9 is operating as it should but has lost a backup motor on the imager,″ said Gary Davis, NOAA’s director of satellite operations.

To reduce the maximum temperature swing, the satellite will be turned slightly, to avoid the direct sunlight, for six hours a day during the test.

If this solves the problem, Mike Suranno, a NOAA satellite controller, said a similar step is being considered for GOES-8, the weather satellite watching the eastern half of the country and the Atlantic Ocean.

The change will mean no images from GOES-9 for about six hours every day during the two-week test period _ starting about midnight Pacific time.

If results of the test are positive, the outages will be implemented during two-week periods in August, October, February and April, when the instrument runs the hottest because of the relative position of the Earth and sun, NOAA said. That would mean a data outage of less than 4 percent annually.

NOAA is currently planning to launch its next GOES satellite in the spring of 1997, with a redesigned motor to prevent a similar problem.

GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.

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