GOES Satellites and Their Payloads


In ancient China, go was one of the four arts that any cultivated scholar and gentleman was expected to master. It is considered to be the most challenging of classic games for artificial intelligence, due to its enormous search space and the difficulty of evaluating board positions and moves. Nevertheless, in the early 1990s the first programs were able to play at a decent amateur level. This success was attributed in part to the fact that, unlike chess, which has a complex and logical rule set, go has a much simpler one. Players simply place black and white stones on a 19 by 19 grid and try to surround opposite stones in order to capture them. Out of this simplicity emerges tremendous beauty, as demonstrated in the complex battles of Black and White armies that span from corner to center of the board.

The GOES system, which was first launched in 1986, is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s geostationary operational environmental satellite system. It supports National Weather Service (NWS) weather forecasting and severe storm tracking, as well as meteorology research. It is operated by NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service division.

GOES satellites are powered by solar energy, and their instruments measure the near-Earth solar environment using sensors. These measurements are then transmitted to NOAA’s Satellite Operations Control Center in Suitland, Maryland. The primary payload instrument on a GOES satellite is the imager and sounder. The imager is a multichannel sensor that measures infrared and visible radiated solar energy from the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. The sounder provides atmospheric profiles, including vertical temperature and moisture.

Each GOES satellite also carries the Solar X-ray Imager and Space Environment Monitor (SEM). These instruments detect and monitor changes in the solar environment, such as sunspot activity, flares and coronal holes that can disrupt communications and interfere with high altitude airline navigation systems and power grids.

The most recent GOES satellite to launch is the GOES-R Series satellite formerly known as GOES-T, which was launched March 1, 2017. It is currently located at its operating position in geostationary orbit over 137° west. This imager is the most powerful in the GOES fleet, with three times more spectral channels, four times more resolution and five times faster scanning than previous versions of GOES.

GOES-R’s ten-minute full disk imagery is critical to NWS forecast offices and Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers, as well as improving aviation safety by providing more frequent images of volcanic ash plumes.

The GOES-R satellites are operated by the NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, and managed by NOAA’s Satellite Operations Control Center in Maryland. GOES-R’s primary payload instrument is the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), which views Earth with three times more spectral channels, and four times more spatial resolution, than previous GOES satellites. The Advanced X-ray Irradiance Sensor (EXIS) can also detect solar flares that could interfere with satellites, high altitude aircraft and power grids on Earth.