GOES-18 Adds New Capabilities to Its Mission

Since 1975 NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) have provided continuous imagery and data on atmospheric conditions and solar activity (space weather), and aided in search and rescue of people in distress. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration builds and launches the satellites, while NOAA’s Satellite Operations Control Center in Suitland, Maryland operates them once they are parked in geostationary orbit.

The GOES-R series of satellites, including the state-of-the-art GOES-18 now parked in geostationary orbit, has some exciting new capabilities to add to its mission. One of the most significant improvements is the GOES-R Imager, which will view the Earth in 16 different wavelengths—or spectral bands—ranging from visible light to infrared. That’s a big improvement over the current GOES satellites, which have only five bands total.

But the GOES-R imager will also be able to see the Earth in three dimensions, meaning it can get information about the thickness of clouds, moisture content, temperature variations with altitude, and more. That information will be useful to meteorologists who are predicting severe storms and hurricanes.

GOES-R also has a science package called SEM (Space Environment Monitor), which will provide real-time images of the Sun to help forecasters spot solar activity that could potentially impact spacecraft and ground-based equipment in Earth’s vicinity. The GOES-R series also includes the Solar X-ray Imaging Spectrograph (SXI) and High Energy Particle Astronomy Observatory (HEPAO).

Another mission of a GOES satellite is to relay environmental data transmissions from remote Automatic Data Collection Platforms (DCPs) to small, regional, ground-based receiving stations in radio view of the satellite. The onboard GOES system does this using the DCS (Data Communications System).

The S&RSAT capability, which enables DCPs to transmit distress signals to SAR (search and rescue) facilities, was introduced on GOES-7 as a research/demonstration program. It is now an operational feature on the GOES-I-M series.

GOES satellites are parked in geostationary orbit above fixed points on the Earth’s surface, allowing them to maintain constant observation of regions of interest. The Imager and Sounder instruments on GOES satellites are designed to capture a wide range of weather phenomena, such as thunderstorm development and track, snowfall accumulation, and cloud movement. They are complemented by the SEM, which detects the effects of solar radiation on the near-Earth solar-terrestrial electromagnetic environment and provides real-time images to NOAA’s Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colorado.