GOES-16 Will Be the 16th Satellite in the GOES-R Series of Satellites to Monitor Earth’s Meteorological Activity


The word go means “to proceed.” You can physically go somewhere—such as across town or to India on a plane—or you can move forward with an idea. A raging storm can make you go crazy, or you can choose to go with it. You can also use go as a verb to express the idea of going through something: She went through hell and back for her cause. You can also say that a beach goes on forever, or that strawberries and apples go together nicely. The newest GOES satellite is scheduled to be launched in 2017 and join the GOES series in 2018. Like its predecessors, the new spacecraft will fly in a 22,300-mile-high geostationary orbit over Earth’s equator. GOES-16 will have an expected lifespan of five years, and like the other satellites in the GOES-R series, it will carry onboard instruments to monitor meteorological conditions on Earth.

The satellites have two primary locations: GOES East, which watches over North and South America; and GOES West, which monitors the Pacific Ocean. NOAA maintains an on-orbit spare GOES satellite to provide backup in the event of a failure of either of these two satellites.

Each GOES satellite has two main payload instruments: the Imager and the Sounder. The Imager measures electromagnetic energy reflected from the atmosphere and surface of the Earth, and the Sounder provides information on atmospheric temperature and moisture. The GOES satellites have an onboard Data Collection System (DCS) to relay environmental data transmissions from remote Automatic Data Collection Platforms. The DCS can transmit GOES data in narrow-band radio view to existing small, ground-based regional weather centers that have the necessary receiver equipment.

In addition to the traditional GOES instruments, the GOES-R series satellites will include the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), a pair of solar and terrestrial sensors that will enable scientists to see the Earth in unprecedented detail. STEREO will allow scientists to detect and track hurricanes, tropical storms, volcanoes, and other large-scale events with a spatial resolution far superior to what can be achieved with current technology.

The $11 billion GOES-R program includes four satellites, an extensive land system of dishes and other equipment, and new methods to crunch the massive stream of data that the satellites are expected to deliver. The GOES-R satellites are being built by NASA, under contract to NOAA. Once the satellites reach orbit, NOAA will be responsible for command and control, data reception, processing and distribution. This will be done from the NOAA SOCC (Satellite Operations Control Center) at NOAA/NESDIS headquarters in Suitland, Maryland. The GOES-R satellites will also have the capability of transmitting ten-minute “full disk” imagery, which can significantly improve aviation safety by improving the monitoring of volcanic activity and ash plumes, for example. This increased temporal cadence will provide critical information to NOAA National Weather Service weather forecast offices and Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers, as well as to the general public. These improvements are part of NOAA’s mission to protect the lives and property of Americans.