New NOAA weather satellite reaches geostationary orbit – Spaceflight Now

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Artist’s impression of the GOES-17 satellite in orbit. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Less than two weeks after launching from Cape Canaveral, a new NOAA weather observatory has rocketed into a circular orbit more than 22,000 miles above the equator, and officials have renamed it GOES-17 ahead of a series of tests before it enters service later this year.

NOAA traditionally switches from a letter to a numerical designation for its weather satellites after reaching their operational geostationary orbit. This time, the GOES-S satellite became GOES-17.

“Today is a great day for the GOES-S satellite,” NOAA said in a statement. “It has reached geostationary orbit (22,300 miles in space) and has now officially been given a new name… GOES-17! The satellite will be called GOES-17 for the rest of its life. GOES satellites are designated by a letter before launch and a number once they reach geostationary orbit.

GOES-17 will begin collecting operational weather data over the western United States and the Pacific Ocean before the end of 2018, officials said.

Since blasting off on March 1 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the GOES-S satellite has fired its Japanese-made main engine several times to circularize its orbit from an initial elliptical transfer orbit to a circular pole at nearly 22,300 miles (35,800 kilometers) above the equator. At this altitude, the spacecraft’s motion follows the rhythm of the Earth’s rotation, giving it a fixed field of view.

GOES-17 is expected to complete its final deployments in the coming days, beginning with the deployment of the second stage of its solar arrays on Tuesday. The electricity-generating solar wing completed a first stage of deployment a few hours after its launch.

Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the satellite will also extend antennas to transmit and receive X-band, S-band and L-band signals, and finally deploy a magnetometer boom equipped with sensors to measure the magnetic field around the satellite, data that could help predict geomagnetic storms and other space weather disturbances.

GOES-17 will maneuver to a verification position in geostationary orbit at 89.5 degrees west longitude later this month. Post-launch testing and calibration is scheduled to begin on March 26, with the first images from GOES-17 expected in mid-May, NOAA said.

“GOES-17 will undergo a six-month in-orbit checkout of its instruments and systems, followed by operational handover procedures,” NOAA said in a statement. “The satellite moved to its operational location at 137 degrees west longitude in late 2018 and became NOAA’s GOES West.”

NOAA’s newest weather satellite joins an identical craft named GOES-16, which was launched in November 2016 and entered service in the GOES East position in December, providing real-time weather images over the eastern United States. States and hurricane areas in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

With GOES-16 and GOES-17 working in tandem, forecasters will have sharper and more frequent views of storms, fog, wildfires and other phenomena from New Zealand to the West Coast of Africa.

The latest pair of GOES weather satellites, along with two more to be launched in 2020 and 2024, carry enhanced imagers that can see clouds, lightning, fog, smoke and ash in the atmosphere with high resolution and much greater spectral detail than previous meteorological observatories. Imagers also return images of storms with greater frequency – as often as every 30 seconds.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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