GOES-R, the Next Generation of Geostationary Weather Satellites

The first geostationary weather satellite, GOES-1, was launched on October 16, 1975 and has since become a critical part of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) operational capabilities. The GOES satellites provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere, real-time mapping of lightning activity and improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration builds and launches the GOES satellites and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates them from the Satellite Operations Control Center in Suitland, Maryland.

The latest series of GOES satellites, known as the GOES-R Series, provides critical atmospheric, hydrologic, oceanic, climatic, and solar data, significantly improving detection and observation of environmental phenomena that directly impact public safety, protection of property and our nation’s economic health and prosperity. The GOES-R Series is NOAA’s most sophisticated geostationary weather system, with each satellite maintaining an operational position over a specific geographic region of the Earth.

GOES-R includes the first satellite-borne Lightning Mapper to provide near-real-time mapping of total lightning activity with a resolution of 8 km for most of the United States and Canada. GOES-R also includes the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) to provide high-resolution imagery of the atmosphere at both global and local scales. A new space environment monitor (SEM) will provide improved observations of solar radiation and near-Earth space weather events.

A new geostationary meteorology radar (GMR) will enhance the detection of mesoscale convection and cyclones, enabling forecasters to detect more rapidly developing severe weather, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Additionally, a new cloud and rain radar will provide enhanced rainfall observations at all scales of spatial resolution. GOES-R will improve the continuity of the national weather radar network and provide improved continuity of coverage during critical events.

NOAA maintains dedicated websites for each GOES satellite, providing access to imagery and data for free. In addition, there are a number of additional sites devoted to particular topics, such as weather and fires.

Each GOES satellite is designated with a letter before launch and then renamed with a number once it has achieved geostationary orbit. This table shows the history and status of the GOES satellites.

The fourth and final satellite in NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) – R Series, GOES-U has arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for preparations for its 2024 launch. The satellite will be the first to feature both an imager and sounder instrument. The imager will observe infrared radiant energy, visible reflected solar energy and solar UV radiation. The sounder will sense the vertical structure of the atmosphere by measuring the temperature and water vapor fields, and the soundings can be used to calculate atmospheric humidity and pressure. The sounder also detects and reports on space weather events, such as solar flares, coronal mass ejections and comet flybys. The GOES-U satellite will be deployed into its operational Eastern and Western positions after a successful prelaunch check out on Tuesday, March 25, 2024.