Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites
GOES is a constellation of weather satellites that provide images and monitoring of atmospheric, oceanic, climatic and space weather data to support NOAA’s mission to protect life and property. GOES data is used by the National Weather Service, commercial weather services, universities, the Department of Defense and the global research community.
The GOES system consists of five operational satellites: GOES-1, GOES-2, GOES-3, GOES-4 and GOES-8. The GOES-4 satellite was the first in the GOES series to carry the Visible Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer (VISSR) Atmospheric Sounder, which enabled scientists to see into the clouds and measure their temperatures and moisture content.
In 1975, the GOES-1 satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was followed by GOES-2 in 1977, GOES-3 in 1978, and GOES-4 in 1980. Each GOES satellite was a spin stabilized geosynchronous satellite that carried an imager and a sounder instrument.
Each GOES satellite also had a special position that provided specialized coverage for the South America region. This position was called GOES-South and was usually assigned to older satellites that were replaced by newer ones. The GOES-South position was vacated when the last North American satellite – GOES-12 – was decommissioned on 1 December 2009.
GOES-16 and GOES-17 are the most advanced GOES satellites, providing a number of new features to better serve forecasters and researchers. These include improved imagery, enhanced detection of lightning, real-time tracking of the sun and increased capacity for solar X-ray imaging.
These satellites are in a unique orbit that allows them to stay above a fixed spot on the Earth’s surface for constant vigilance of atmospheric “triggers” that can cause severe storms such as tornadoes, flash floods and hail. This helps meteorologists to identify and track these atmospheric disturbances, so they can issue alerts and warnings before the weather turns bad.
In addition, GOES satellites help to improve storm intensity and hurricane tracking by gathering more precise information about the atmosphere, such as temperature measurements and winds. These measurements enable the forecasters to make more accurate short-term weather predictions and forecasts for severe weather events.
They also collect snowfall accumulations and melt estimates, so they can track the impact of winter storms and issue warnings. These satellites can also detect ice fields and map the movement of sea ice.
GOES satellites are equipped with a magnetometer, which provides measurements of the Earth’s magnetic field and is critical to space weather monitoring and forecasting. This magnetic information is used to forecast weather systems that could affect the transportation industry and electric power networks, as well as support the missions of high-altitude aviators, space station astronauts, and other science and exploration missions.
The GOES-16 and GOES-17 satellites were launched on November 21, 2016 on an Atlas V 541 expendable launch vehicle (ELV). They have been placed in a geosynchronous orbit 22,236 miles above the Earth. They are operated from the Wallops Command Data Acquisition Center in Virginia and from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.