A new weather satellite is on its way to space, but it’s unlike any of the weather satellites we currently have. Launched over the weekend by NASA and NOAA, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R (GOES-R) is the first of a new fleet of weather-tracking satellites that could help scientists predict weather patterns further afield. advance and save lives. This is just the beginning of what GOES-R can do.
The satellite is currently en route to geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. This means that it has the same orbital period of Earth and therefore remains in place on the American continent where it can monitor weather conditions. GOES-R will be a leap forward in weather forecasting with its state-of-the-art hardware. The satellite is capable of scanning the Earth five times faster, with four times the resolution and in three times more spectral bands than current satellites.
All of the weather satellites that NOAA currently relies on were built with systems developed in the 1990s. Using brand new GOES-R satellite technology, the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) could literally save lives by providing forecasters with more timely data to predict the course of storms. Even a few minutes can go a long way in warning people to take cover.
GOES-R could also fundamentally change the way weather forecasts are made through live data streaming from space. For example, lightning activity will be tracked in real time with an instrument called the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) and sent back to Earth where meteorologists can monitor it. This will not only see ground strikes, but also the much more common cloud-to-cloud lightning. This is critically important when simulating the trajectory of severe weather phenomena like tornadoes and supercell thunderstorms.
Although the ABI is the main instrument of GOES-R, it also incorporates a few other interesting gadgets. It carries a set of sensors capable of detecting X-rays and ultraviolet rays from the sun. This allows scientists to track things like solar flares and the solar wind. The sun occasionally erupts with activity that can endanger our power grid, so scientists are understandably interested in learning all they can about the sun’s emissions. GOES-R also has the necessary equipment to participate in the Satellite-Assisted Search and Rescue System (SARSAT). People with special emergency transponders can send distress signals which are relayed to rescuers via satellites. GOES-R makes these SARSAT beacons more reliable.
GOES-R was sent into space on an Atlas V rocket, one of the few launch vehicles capable of sending a significant payload into geostationary orbit. It should be up in about two weeks.