* Spare satellite activated, but not moved
* Troubleshooting efforts under way for GOES-13
* Satellite helps track weather off U.S. Atlantic Coast
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., May 24 A key satellite
positioned to track severe weather in the eastern United States
has failed, just as the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season is about
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) has activated a spare satellite, which will provide
coverage of the East Coast, while tries to fix the failed one,
the agency said in a status report on its website on Friday.
"There is no estimate on return to operations at this time,"
The Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season starts on June 1 and
lasts six months. NOAA warned on Thursday that this year's
season may be "extremely active," with 13 to 20 tropical storms
and seven to 11 of those strengthening into hurricanes.
The agency's three current Geostationary Operational
Environmental Satellites, known as GOES, were built by Boeing
and designed to last 10 years. The failed spacecraft,
GOES-13, was launched in 2006.
The same satellite was sidelined for about three weeks last
year by another problem.
"At this time, it's too early to tell if it's related - it
doesn't appear to be related," Tom Renkevens, a NOAA deputy
division chief, told Reuters.
NOAA typically operates two GOES spacecraft over the United
States, overlooking the East and West coasts, plus one on-orbit
spare. The satellites are outfitted with imagers to watch for
clouds and developing storms, atmospheric sounders to measure
temperatures and humidity, and other instruments.
The first sign of trouble with GOES-13, the primary East
Coast satellite, surfaced late on Wednesday when it failed to
relay expected images, NOAA status reports show.
GOES-13 is located over 75 degrees west longitude. Though
activated, the spare remains in its storage orbit at 105 degrees
west. Data received from that spare and a European satellite,
means that weather forecasters still have a full view of the
"We're not blind in any areas," Renkevens said.
If a second GOES should fail, NOAA would operate its
remaining satellite in a different mode to get a full view of
the United States every half-hour. The agency would also depend
more on supplemental information relayed by polar orbiting
"That's never happened, but if something should happen we
have plans," Renkevens said.
Efforts to troubleshoot the failed satellite are continuing
and for now NOAA does not plan to drift its spare GOES east.
Relocating the satellite takes about a month because it has to
be moved very slowly so it can maintain a steady gaze on Earth,
NOAA also has an older GOES-12 satellite, launched in
2001, parked at 60 degrees west that provides coverage of South
The first of the agency's next-generation GOES spacecraft is
due to launch in October 2015.