2 March 2018
A successful Atlas V launch from Cape Canaveral has put the second of NOAA’s latest-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) on track to start operations late this year. Together with GOES-16, launched in 2016, GOES-17 will provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements of the Western hemisphere, including real-time mapping of lightning activity, covering an area from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand; this GOES-R generation of spacecraft also promise improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather.
The first satellite in the series, GOES-R, now known as GOES-16, was launched in 2016 and is currently operational as NOAA’s GOES-East satellite. GOES-S is scheduled to join GOES-16 in orbit as GOES-17 in March 2018 and be operational as GOES-West in late 2018.
Together, GOES-16 and GOES-17 will watch over the Western Hemisphere from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand and from near the Arctic circle to near the Antarctic circle. The second satellite will provide more and better data than is currently available over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, the birthplace of many weather systems that affect the continental US.
According to NOAA, the GOES-R Series imager scans the Earth five times faster with four times the resolution and three times the number of channels than instruments flying on previous GOES missions, for more accurate and reliable forecasts and severe weather warnings. The imager provides images of weather patterns, hurricanes and severe storms as frequently as every 30 seconds.
GOES-R series satellites also carry the first operational lightning mapper flown in geostationary orbit, which measures both in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning.
GOES-17 will also greatly improve geostationary coverage of Alaska and surrounding high-latitude areas.
In addition to more and better data over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, R series capabilities include better fire detection and intensity estimation, improved detection of low cloud or fog, improved tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts, advanced monitoring of atmospheric river events that can cause flooding and mudslides, better monitoring of smoke and dust, improved air quality warnings and alerts, and even improved transportation safety and aviation route planning.
NOAA manages the GOES-R Series program through an integrated NOAA/NASA office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA also oversees the acquisition of the Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft and their instruments, and launch.
NOAA’s GOES East satellite caught this dramatic view of the “Bomb Cyclone” moving up the US East coast on the morning of 4 January 4 2018 (NOAA)