The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)


Since 1975, geostationary weather satellites — known as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, or GOES — have provided a continuous stream of environmental data used by National Weather Service (NWS) weather forecasting and severe storm tracking operations. The GOES system consists of two spacecraft and ground-based elements that work together to provide a comprehensive picture of Earth, day and night. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) oversees the GOES program.

The GOES spacecraft is equipped with two main instruments, an imager and sounder. The imager detects infrared energy from the visible light spectrum. It provides information about cloud top temperatures, moisture, and surface temperature. The sounder monitors vertical atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles, including the distribution of ozone.

Aside from its role as a weather satellite, GOES is also an important spacecraft for scientific research. The satellite’s advanced instrument suite provides valuable insights into the dynamics of our planet, such as ocean surface currents, volcanic eruptions, and solar activity.

In addition to the GOES-R Series’ main instruments, it is also equipped with two other sensors: The Advanced Baseline Imager and the Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensor. The ABI gives scientists three times more spectral channels, four times the resolution and five times faster scanning of the Earth than previous GOES instruments. EXIS can identify solar flares, which can disrupt satellite communications, reduce navigational accuracy of high-altitude airplanes and disrupt power grids on Earth.

GOES-R is scheduled to be operational in 2024 and will replace GOES-14 as NOAA’s primary operational geostationary weather satellite. It will increase the speed of data acquisition and will allow for 10-minute full disk imagery of the Western Hemisphere. This increased temporal cadence will be particularly useful for meteorologists at NOAA’s Weather Forecast Offices and National Centers, as well as for Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers.

NOAA’s GOES-R satellite will also be the first to include a Lightning Mapper, which can see lightning strikes as far as 10 kilometers away. Combined with the ABI, it will provide the aviation industry with more timely and accurate lightning information that will help improve flight safety.

To support the GOES-R Series’ mission, NOAA’s ground system includes RF front-end hardware and a DCS computer equipment called DAPS (Goes DCS Automatic Processing System). The DAPS system routes messages received from the GOES-R series’ 200 sensors to a computer on board the satellite, where it is stored for distribution and dissemination. GOES-R can transmit messages to the ground system on both a random or interrogated basis.

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