Nav: Home

GOES-3 satellite decommissioned

August 25, 2016

July 19, 2016

The National Science Foundation (NSF) late last month decommissioned a 38-year-old communications satellite that for 21 years had helped to link NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station with the outside world. It was among the oldest, continuously operating satellites in the skies.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, or GOES-3, was designed and built as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather satellite. After completing its NOAA mission, it was repurposed as a communications satellite to support the NSF-managed United States Antarctic Program.

The satellite's dwindling propellant supply triggered the need to move it to a disposal orbit.

"During its 21 years of operation for the United States Antarctic Program, the GOES-3 satellite provided life-supporting phone and internet communication services to the research community," noted Hans Graber, director of the University of Miami's Richmond Satellite Operations Center at the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS), which had operated the satellite since 1995. CSTARS is part of UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

In a cooperative effort with partner organizations, scientists and engineers with CSTARS and the university's physics department planned and executed the maneuvers for the decommissioning, which was completed on June 29.

NSF, NOAA, and Lockheed Martin, which oversaw the university's subcontract to operate the satellite, marked the decommissioning, itself a complex undertaking, as a milestone in telecommunications history.

"This was a carefully planned and collaborative operation," said Art Ibers, vice president of Exploration and Mission Support at Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Solutions. "Over 14 days and 20 orbital adjustment maneuvers, the satellite was carefully nudged into a 'graveyard' orbit, safely removed from the other still-operating geostationary satellites by about 250 kilometers. After reaching its higher orbit and ensuring that all fuel on-board had been depleted, the satellite's operators started shutting off its systems one by one, until finally commanding it to turn off telemetry, making it completely passive."

Amundsen-Scott's extreme latitude -- 90 degrees south, directly over the pole -- makes it impossible to "see" most communications satellites, which orbit at or near the equator at an altitude of more than 22,000 miles. GOES-3 was able to communicate with the station because an oscillation in its orbital plane shifted it far enough south for its signals to reach the bottom of the planet for about 6.5 hours per day.

NSF will replace the service provided by GOES-3 with the Defense Satellite Communications System Phase III, vehicle B7 (DSCS III B7) satellite, which is visible from the South Pole for about 3.5 hours per day. As a result, the station will see internet access speeds increase from roughly 1.5 megabits per second (MBPS) under GOES, to up to 30 MBPS under DSCS.

The new DSCS capability was used to provide telemedicine video capabilities from the South Pole to the United States during the recent medical consultations that preceded the evacuation of two patients from the South Pole in late June.

But the increased data volume of the DSCS satellite will primarily benefit researchers who send large quantities of data to their home institutions from sophisticated, large-scale experiments at the South Pole, including the South Pole and BICEP radio telescopes and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a massive particle detector built into the ice.

The GOES-3 satellite was launched into geostationary orbit in 1978. By 1989, its weather-observation instruments had failed, so its orbit was modified to allow it be used as a communications satellite.

Since 1995, it's been one of the main satellites used to communicate and provide internet service to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and a variety of deep field science camps in the Antarctic.

NSF, through its subcontractors, took over operation of the satellite in 1999.
-end-


National Science Foundation

Related Satellite Articles:

NASA looks at extreme Florida rainfall by satellite
Extremely heavy rain has recently fallen over Florida and the Global Precipitation Measurement or GPM mission core satellite looked at that some of that rainfall on June 7.
First solar images from NOAA's GOES-16 satellite
The first images from the Solar Ultraviolet Imager or SUVI instrument aboard NOAA's GOES-16 satellite have been successful, capturing a large coronal hole on Jan.
Falsifying Galileo satellite signals will become more difficult
The European Union activated its Galileo satellite navigation system in December 2016.
Using satellite images to better target vaccination
Vaccination campaigns can improve prevention and control of disease of outbreaks in the developing world by using satellite images to capture short-term changes in population size.
GOES-3 satellite decommissioned
The National Science Foundation (NSF) in late June decommissioned a 38-year-old communications satellite that for 21 years had helped to link NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station with the outside world.
Predicting poverty by satellite with detailed accuracy
By combining satellite data and sophisticated machine learning, researchers have developed a technique to estimate household consumption and income.
The world's first wireless satellite
A satellite whose components are not connected through electric cables but miniaturised radio modules: This innovation has earned two computer scientists from the University of Würzburg the first place in the INNOspace Masters competition.
Tracking deer by NASA satellite
Mule deer mothers are in sync with their environment, with reproduction patterns that closely match the cycles of plant growth in their habitat.
Satellite shows Tropical Depression 9 weakening
NOAA's GOES-East satellite captured an image of Tropical Depression 9 weakening in the Central Atlantic on Sept.
How to get rid of a satellite after its retirement
Researchers at University of La Rioja have developed a new method to eliminate artificial satellites in Highly Elliptical Orbits when they finish their mission.

Related Satellite Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...