June 20, 2017
In November 2016, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched the first of four satellites into orbit to better monitor and track weather patterns on Earth. These four planned launches are the latest steps in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) and the four launches in particular are known as GOES-R, GOES-S, GOES-T, and GOES-U.
As geostationary satellites, they will revolve around the Earth at the same speed the Earth rotates on its axis. In effect, the satellite will then remain hovering in orbit over the same position on the globe indefinitely. From this fixed position, the satellite will be able to constantly record weather activity over its assigned jurisdiction.
With one satellite already in orbit, the GOES-R mission is all going according to plan.
GOES Mission History
The launch of the GOES-R satellite was not the first of its kind, but it is the most advanced satellite to date. Once fixed in orbit, the GOES-R was renamed the GOES-16, because it actually represents the 16th satellite launched through the GOES program going all the way back to 1975. Of these sixteen, only four including GOES-16 itself are still in use. This new line of GOES satellites is planned to have fifteen year lifespans in orbit before being decommissioned.
GOES-16 Improvements and Benefits
With over thirty years of satellite launches, the weather monitoring technology has greatly improved, and the jump in quality between GOES-16 and its ancestors is just as stark. Quickly, here are just a few of the advantages the GOES-16 will deliver over older model satellites.
- Improved hurricane tracking forecasts
- Faster recognition and warnings of forming tornadoes and thunderstorms
- Earlier warnings of lightning strikes
- Better recognition of flash flooding risks
- Better solar flare warnings to prevent navigation disruptions
- Easier flight planning
Again these are just a few of the benefits. The GOES-16 satellite also has a number of secondary, but no less valuable, functions.
- High Rate Information Transmission/Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (HRIT/EMWIN): Besides being a useful tool for meteorologists, the GOES-16 can also deliver a direct feed to user’s smartphones or computer system. It can supply warnings, forecasts, graphics, and more directly to the people who need it.
- Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT): These satellites are also used to locate sailors and pilots who are in distress. The satellite actually networks with other satellites around the globe to pinpoint the distress beacon and relay the information to the authorities. The GOES-16 will be able to locate weaker distress signals than previous generations.
More GOES Launches to Come
The next satellite to launch is GOES-S, which once in orbit, will be known as GOES-17. The launch is planned for 2018 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. As part of this series of launches, GOES-S will contribute to extending the GOES program until 2036. GOES-T is set to launch in 2019, and presumably GOES-U will likely launch sometime in 2020.
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