The weather satellite has left Colorado to play its starting role

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Lockheed Martin engineers just finished building GOES-18 and declared it ready for launch.

AURORA, Colorado – The Geostationary operational environmental satellites (GOES) have been monitoring the weather in the United States since 1975.

Many of them have been decommissioned, but the latest generation of GOES is a series of four spacecraft that will carry the science of meteorology until at least 2036.

The first, GOES-16, was launched in 2016 and reached its operational position in the eastern half of the country in December 2017. The second, GOES-17, was launched in 2018 and was positioned in the western part of the United States. United in February 2019.

Two other satellites were intended to be backups that would be launched and stored in orbit in the event of malfunction of the other satellites.

It turns out that the save is already sent to the starting lineup.

Shortly after GOES-17 launched in 2018, scientists realized there was a problem with one of its sensors.

“There is a cooling problem with the advanced baseline imager,” said Dan Lindsey with the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “It only affects the infrared bands which allow us to see clouds and water vapor at night.”

He said the glitch only occurs at certain times, when sunlight hits the satellite at just the right angle. Scientists still receive over 90% of the data it was designed for, but that lack of performance was just enough for NOAA to call the Backup Satellite.

Lockheed Martin engineers just finished building GOES-18, which will be called GOES-T until it reaches orbit, and they’ve declared it ready for launch.

“A satellite like this, from concept to development, takes eight or nine years,” said Arleen Knaub, deputy program director for GOES at Lockheed Martin.

She said when the advanced six-instrument suite works properly, the two operational GOES satellites will push meteorology to a new level of precision.

“Meteorologists have developed these algorithms based on all the data they get from these instruments that help predict how our weather is changing,” she said.

The key to the increased accuracy and machine learning techniques implemented by today’s meteorologists is resolution.

“Resolution means we can see things smaller than what we could see before,” Lindsey said. “We can now see things about four times smaller. ”

Lindsey said GOES can spot bubbling cumulus clouds, indicating the formation of severe thunderstorms. It can identify weather activities such as individual lightning and tiny vortices in the eye of a hurricane, signaling a possible rapid intensification or changes in direction. It can even spot wildfires when they are less than an acre.

Before this satellite can be a pilot for meteorology, it must first be a passenger. It was loaded onto a C5 transport plane at Buckley Space Station on Tuesday morning and will be shipped to Cape Canaveral, Fla.

“A lot of people spend a lot of time making sure this is done with a lot of care, so I’m not particularly nervous about it, but it’s definitely an exciting time,” Lindsey said.

The launch date is scheduled for February. GOES-18 will be positioned in roughly the same location the faulty GOES-17 now occupies, over the western United States.

If the satellite passes its test phase, which could take more than six months, it will be made operational and GOES-17 will be moved to storage orbit for use in a backup role.

Lockheed Martin engineers will now focus on building the fourth and final weather satellite, GOES-19. It is slated to launch in April 2024, where it will also be placed in storage orbit as a second backup.

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