GOES-R Series Satellites Improve Weather Forecasting and Satellite Data Collection

The GOES satellites are the key to NOAA’s weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and meteorology research. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, or GOES, provides continuous imagery and data on atmospheric conditions and solar activity. It has also helped save lives and aided rescuers by providing crucial information on the progress of major natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) builds the GOES satellites, and NOAA operates them from its Washington, DC headquarters. The newest GOES satellites, the GOES-R Series, have advanced capabilities that improve observations of the Earth’s Western Hemisphere, such as improved lightning mapping and better monitoring of solar activity and space weather.

GOES is named for its geostationary position over the Earth: it stays above a fixed point in the sky, 22,236 miles above the equator. Its satellite communications system, called GOES Data Collection System (DCS), relays data transmissions from remote automatic Data Collection Platforms (DCPs) that are in radio view of the GOES satellite.

DCPs are small, portable platforms that contain a transmitter and sensor. They are programmed to report at specific times and intervals to GOES. The GOES satellites can also receive information from random DCP transmissions by transmitting a special interrogate signal to the DCP, which then sends a report back to the GOES satellite.

The GOES-R series includes the GOES-16 satellite, which is operational as NOAA’s GOES East satellite. The other two, GOES-17 and GOES-18, are on-orbit backups.

In addition to traditional atmospheric and solar monitoring, GOES-16 includes the first ever look at the Earth’s polar ice caps in near-real time using a new Polarized Visible and Infrared Imager. And, because of its location over the Western Hemisphere, GOES-16 can provide critical information to airlines and ship operators about the potential for dangerous ice formations on their routes.

The GOES-R Series also features the first-ever look at lightning in near real time with a new Lightning Mapper. The mapper will help aviation and shipping industries with the development of flight plans, as well as provide important data to emergency managers in the case of a lightning-induced hazardous event.