Last weather satellite launched this week


AUSTIN (KXAN) — NASA will launch the newest NOAA weather satellite into space Tuesday at 3:38 p.m. CST from Cape Canaveral, Florida. This weather satellite will be the third in the GOES-R series, a forecasting tool used by meteorologists around the world.

What is the GOES-R series?

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), known as the GOES-R series, comprise a pair of weather satellites orbiting 22,236 miles above the Earth’s equator. These satellites move at the speed of rotation of the Earth, allowing them to maintain their position over a specific region, providing coverage of an area covering more than half of the Earth.

There are currently two operational weather satellites: GOES-16 and GOES-17.

GOES-16 (formerly known as GOES-R) was launched in 2016 and currently operates as NOAA GOES East.

PHOTO: GOES East Geocolor Imagery | COURTESY: NOAA

GOES-17 (formerly known as GOES-S) was launched in 2018 and currently operates as NOAA GOES-West.

PHOTO: GOES-West Geocolor Imagery | COURTESY: NOAA

What do satellites do?

GOES-R series satellites scan the Earth as frequently as every 30 seconds, providing advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements used in forecasting. Compared to their predecessors, GOES satellites are able to scan the Earth 5x faster with 4x resolution and 3x channel count.

Both satellites are equipped with a Advanced base imager, the main tool used for imaging, and a Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM)an instrument that captures and maps lightning activity in real time (both intracloud and cloud-to-ground).

On board both satellites is also a Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI) summerxtreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) to monitor the sun and potential solar flares, in addition to a Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS) and Magnetometer to assess space weather.

According to NOAA, the suite of instruments on board each satellite provides data that allows:

  • Improved hurricane track and intensity forecasts
  • Increased thunderstorm and tornado warning delay
  • Earlier warning of ground lightning hazards
  • Better detection of the risks of heavy rains and flash floods
  • Better monitoring of smoke and dust
  • Improved air quality warnings and alerts
  • Better fire detection and intensity estimation
  • Improved low cloud and fog detection
  • Improved transportation safety and air route planning
  • Enhanced warning for communications and navigation disruptions and power outages
  • More precise monitoring of energetic particles responsible for radiological risks

Where is GOES-T going?

After launch, GOES-T will be renamed GOES-18 once in geostationary orbit. There will be a testing period required to ensure instruments and systems are working properly.

If the equipment passes for precision, GOES-18 will replace GOES-17 as GOES-West, monitoring hazards and weather systems affecting the western United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America and the Pacific Ocean. (GOES-17 will remain in orbit and will be used as a spare.)

GOES-T will operate the same as GOES-16 and GOES-17, except for two changes. The newest weather satellite has a slightly modified version Advanced Basic Imager to help with a previous faulty cooling system issue plus an improved magnetometer.

Launch forecast

Tuesday’s forecast is one to watch at Cape Canaveral, Florida, as a nearby disturbance could provide less than ideal conditions for the afternoon launch. Morning showers should dissipate, but remnants of cloud cover and gusty winds could delay takeoff. Stick with the KXAN First Warning Weather Team as we continue to monitor conditions.


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