The Next Generation of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)

Since 1975, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) have provided data on atmospheric conditions. They have contributed to better forecasting and even aided in saving lives. These are the most advanced weather satellites in the world. The $11 billion GOES-R series – launched 19 November from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida – will provide more detail than ever before, especially for storms, volcanic activity and other events.

GOES-R carries the most advanced sensors NOAA has ever flown on a single spacecraft. It uses the latest technology to deliver more images of severe weather at a faster rate and with improved spatial resolution. This allows more detailed information to be available for severe storms, hurricanes and other phenomena, improving weather forecasting. Ten-minute full disk imagery will be critical to NOAA’s National Weather Service weather forecast offices, NOAA’s Volcanic Ash Advisories and for monitoring airplanes as they fly through volcanic ash plumes.

The GOES-R series uses the same basic satellite platform as GOES-8 and -9. The main instrument is the Advanced Baseline Imager, which has an Earth-facing sensor (also called a “nadir-pointing” sensor) that can detect and observe a wide range of phenomena. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper is also on board to monitor lightning activity.

Both GOES-R sensors are cooled by the sun, so they require very little power. This conserves energy and allows the satellite to operate for longer periods of time. The spacecraft is controlled by a spacecraft-provided closed-loop control system utilizing both the onboard and ground-based spacecraft PCM telemetry streams.

Like the previous generation of GOES satellites, GOES-R is in geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above Earth’s equator. The geostationary position allows the satellites to continuously view the continental United States, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Central and South America and Southern Canada. The geostationary position allows the nadir-pointing sensors to keep their eyes on weather events as they move across the Earth, ensuring that real-time observations of these events are maintained.

The GOES-R spacecraft is designed to have two primary locations of orbit: GOES East, at 75 degrees West and GOES West, at 135 degrees West. The satellites will be positioned at these locations to cover most of the U.S. The spacecraft is also equipped with an on-orbit spare that will be tasked to go into operation in the event of a failed satellite.

The GOES-R program is the most complex NOAA satellite program ever, with four satellites and extensive land systems of receivers. NOAA’s meteorologists are excited about the new capabilities of GOES-R to improve weather forecasting and save lives.