Next-Generation Earth Observing Satellites (GOES)

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In geostationary orbit 35,790 kilometres (22,240 miles) above Earth, GOES spacecraft continuously view the continental United States and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Central America, South America, and southern Canada. The satellites use sensors to monitor Earth-emitted and reflected radiation (including visible light, infrared, and solar X-ray) from which atmospheric conditions such as cloud cover, temperature, water vapor, and wind can be derived.

The first GOES satellite was launched in 1975 and rapidly became a critical part of the National Weather Service’s operations, providing meteorologists with continuous images of atmospheric conditions, especially during severe weather events such as tornadoes, hail storms and hurricanes. The satellites also support atmospheric science research and enhance the capabilities of numerical weather prediction models.

GOES satellites are designed with two main payload instruments: an Imager and a Sounder. The Imager detects the invisible infrared radiation emitted by the surface of the Earth and its clouds, as well as the thermal infrared radiation radiated by atmospheric molecules and particles, including those from water vapor. The Sounder detects the visible and infrared radiation emitted by clouds, as well as the ozone distribution in Earth’s atmosphere.

The next-generation GOES program, valued at $11 billion, includes four satellites, an extensive land system of satellite dishes and other equipment, and new methods for crunching the massive, nonstop stream of expected data. The first of the next-generation GOES spacecraft was launched 19 November 2016, designated GOES-16 by NOAA, and will be followed in 2018 by GOES-17.

GOES-17’s polarization-independent channels allow it to detect atmospheric phenomena that are difficult to discern using other instruments, such as the vertical distribution of air temperature and moisture over the continental U.S. It will be followed in 2020 by GOES-19, and then in 2024 by GOES-20. The GOES-17 and -19 timelines, as well as the GeoXO mission’s preliminary timeline, are available at NOAA NESDIS. The GOES-16 timeline is available at NOAA NESDIS as well. The GOES-R Mission History page includes details on each satellite’s flight history and a GOES-R flyout schedule (timeline) from NOAA NESDIS. GOES-18 is currently in provisional status and its ABI radiances and CWDM products are available through the NOAA Open Data Dissemination Program. During this time, data files will be labeled with “GOES-18 Preliminary, Non-Operational Data”. As the satellite progresses towards an Operational Declaration, the caveat will disappear.