The GOES-R Series of Satellites Observe the Earth’s Atmosphere


The GOES satellites provide National Weather Service forecasters with continuous, reliable and high-quality observations of Earth’s atmosphere. They use instruments to measure the radiation emitted and reflected by the planet’s surface, water vapor, clouds and atmospheric temperatures. The GOES satellites are operated by NOAA and NASA. They are designed to operate in geostationary orbit 35,790 kilometres (22,240 miles) above the Earth. They continuously view the continental United States, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Central America, South America and southern Canada.

The four GOES-R Series satellites currently in orbit, built by Lockheed Martin, have a variety of instruments that give meteorologists sharper and more defined images of severe storms, hurricanes, wildfires and other environmental events in the U.S. and the western hemisphere. They also have the ability to detect lightning in real-time.

GOES-R series satellites are the most advanced geostationary operational environmental satellites NOAA has ever launched, and they offer scientists, forecasters and the public unprecedented images of Earth’s weather and environment. The spacecraft provide vital information on solar activity and space weather, as well as weather phenomena such as wildfires, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

These satellites help to save lives by aiding the search and rescue operations of people in distress, including those lost at sea or trapped in buildings and automobiles. The data from these satellites also supports the safe operation of military and civilian radio wave and communication systems, astronauts on the Space Station, and high-altitude aviators.

In addition to observing the planet and providing vital information on the Earth’s environment, the GOES-R Series satellites support scientific research in atmospheric science, numerical weather prediction models and environmental sensor design and development. They are also used to assist in space weather monitoring, and are capable of supporting specialized sensors such as the Solar X-Ray Imager on GOES-13.

NOAA’s GOES resources page provides links to the latest imagery from all GOES satellites, along with access to historical data. It includes an online GOES-R archive that allows for downloads of selected observations. During times of significant weather or other events, NOAA’s Satellite Operations Control Center may alter the satellite’s normal schedule to provide requested coverage.

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