Weather satellite instruments find a home at the Smithsonian


[A model of the GOES N,O, and P satellites in the lobby of NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility (NSOF) in Suitland, MD. It is not to scale. (Photo credit: Andre Hammond of OSPO at NSOF)]

[Written by NOAA] NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) have long monitored Earth’s ever-changing weather conditions. Now, some of that history will be on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Two GOES-Q instruments have been in storage for years, essentially collecting dust instead of weather data. GOES-Q was originally designed to be part of a group of four fourth-generation GOES satellites called the GOES-N series (which included GOES N, O, P and Q) that were to be built and then launched between 2006 and 2010. During development, GOES satellites are sequentially lettered, but once launched and operational in space, they are renamed and given a numerical designation. Thus GOES N, O and P later became known as GOES-13, -14 and -15 respectively.

[Models of the imager (left) and sounder (right) instruments found on the GOES N,O, and P satellites in the lobby of NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility (NSOF) in Suitland, MD. The actual instruments originally intended for GOES-Q look identical. (Photo credit: Andre Hammond of OSPO at NSOF)]

However, as the existing satellites were operating well beyond their intended lifetime, construction of the GOES-Q satellite was canceled in 2002 after its imager and flight sounder were manufactured. The imager was designed to capture images of the planet from above, and the sounder was designed to collect information about temperature, pressure, water vapor and critical trace gases in the atmosphere. These instruments were exact replicas of those already on board the GOES N, O and P, and served as flight-qualified spares, if needed, during the construction of the other satellites. But, after the successful launch of GOES R (GOES-16) in 2016, the first of a new generation of more advanced satellites (the GOES-R series), GOES-Q instruments were no longer needed as backups.

Although these two GOES-Q instruments never found a home in space, they did find a home where they will always be cherished by the world. This year they have been removed from the National Collection at the Smithsonian Institute, where they will be incorporated into two modernized exhibits being built at the Air and Space Museum, which is currently undergoing a major renovation. seven years old.

[GOES-N concept art. (Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)]

The GOES-Q sounder will be placed in a new climate change exhibit set to open in 2023. Its imager will be placed in a new gallery called “Living in the Space Age”, which examines the many ways in which space technologies enter our daily lives. It is expected to open in 2025. These instruments will join other important NOAA artifacts, including a Microwave Sounder Unit (MSU) that had been a spare part for an earlier polar-orbiting satellite that was transferred to the Smithsonian in 2004. This MSU will be part of an exhibit called “One World Connected”, tentatively scheduled to open in late 2022.

NOAA’s GOES satellites are positioned approximately 22,300 miles above the Earth’s surface and orbit the planet at the same speed as it spins. They are able to continuously monitor the weather over a specific area, providing information that is used for short-term (1-2 day) forecasts as well as tracking storm systems in real time. They also monitor solar activity (space weather) and assist in search and rescue efforts for people in distress. The first GOES satellite was launched in 1975, and as technology advanced more advanced versions were built and sent into space.


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