Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)


Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) are weather satellites that circle the Earth in a geosynchronous orbit over the equator, providing continuous imagery and data on atmospheric conditions, solar activity and space weather. GOES data products have led to more accurate and timely weather forecasts and better understanding of long-term climate conditions. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) builds and launches GOES, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates them.

GOES satellites are primarily used for severe storm evaluation, observing cloud cover, winds, ocean currents, fog distribution, storm circulation and snow melt, and receiving transmissions from free-floating balloons, buoys and remote automatic data collection stations around the world. They are also used to monitor ice and snow on the ground, including the extent and density of surface ice.

The GOES program was launched in 1975 as a joint effort of NOAA and NASA. The first satellite in the series, SMS-1, was launched on May 17, 1974 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It carried a Visible Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer (VISSR) and a Space Environment Monitor (SEM).

From the geosynchronous position, GOES satellites observe Earth from a single location all the time. This allows them to continuously view a large area of the earth and provide high-resolution, half-hourly observations from 35,800 kilometers above Earth.

They also provide data in three dimensions, using a combination of visible and infrared images. This information helps in the evaluation of severe weather, and can help with the planning of weather-related events, such as blizzards or tornadoes.

Although there were earlier ATS-type weather satellites, the GOES system was the first to use a geosynchronous orbit and provide real-time data from a fixed point on the Earth. The first GOES satellite, SMS-1, was launched on May 17th, 1974 from Cape Canaveral, Florida and was the first operational satellite to detect meteorological conditions from a fixed location and transmit data back to Earth.

GOES has provided continuous, high-resolution, real-time satellite imagery and data on meteorological and environmental conditions since their inception. The data has been a key component in the development of accurate, timely weather forecasts and aided search and rescue operations worldwide.

The GOES series currently includes four satellites: GOES-13 and GOES-15, which operate as GOES-East and GOES-West in the eastern part of the constellation at 75 degrees west longitude, and GOES-16 and GOES-17, which are located in the western portion of the constellation at 135 degrees west longitude. The GOES-R series, which is in the process of becoming fully operational, is comprised of GOES-16 and GOES-17 and will extend the operational lifetime of the GOES satellite system through 2036.

GOES-16 and GOES-17, the advanced baseline imagers, will be operated in a new 10-minute flex mode, replacing the current 15-minute flex mode, with full disk scans being made every 10 minutes instead of every 15. This will increase the number of high-resolution, gridded images available from GOES satellites. The new mode is designed to allow the GOES-N and GOES-R imagers to better monitor regions of potential turbulence.