At 6:42 p.m. EST, on Saturday, November 19, 2016, the GOES-R satellite was launched into space aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Ten days later, the satellite was placed into geostationary orbit about 22,000 miles above the surface of the earth, and was re-named GOES-16. GOES is an acronym meaning “Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite”. Satellites are numbered once they go into orbit because, once in orbit, they are considered spacecraft. The satellite will undergo several months of testing and calibration before data and photographs begin flowing in near real time.
Weather researchers, forecasters, and communicators are thrilled about the impending flood of new data which will pour forth from GOES-16 in (hopefully) less than a year. This is a BIG deal for weather forecasting. Here’s why. The GOES-16 satellite is NOAA’s most advanced geostationary satellite to date. It will be capable of scanning the sky five times faster, with four times the image resolution, and three times the number of spectral channels than current GOES satellites. In addition, GOES-16 is flying six new instruments, including the first operational lightning mapper in geostationary orbit. The increase in data variety, frequency, and resolution will provide more, and better, satellite images, helping weather forecasters more accurately assess developing severe storms in real time, which will result in more accurate and timely hazardous weather warnings and forecasts. The robust increase in satellite data will bolster research efforts in the satellite meteorology community. Finally, the sharper and more frequent satellite images will help weather communicators tailor more effective hazardous weather messages to vulnerable communities and decision makers, in person, on television and across social media.
For a place like the Florida Keys, where weather and ocean observations are scarce, the bevy of new data which GOES-16 will provide will be a boon to local meteorologists at the NOAA/Florida Keys National Weather Service. Moreover, beyond weather forecasting, GOES-16 will be a part of SARSAT, an international, satellite-based search and rescue network. The satellite is carrying a special transponder that can detect distress signals from emergency beacons.
The successful launch of GOES-R was the result of an effective large-scale collaboration among multiple government and private-sector entities. NOAA manages the GOES-R Series Program through an integrated NOAA-NASA office. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R series spacecraft and instruments. Lockheed Martin is responsible for the design, creation and testing of the satellites and for spacecraft processing, along with developing the Geostationary Lightning Mapper and Solar Ultraviolet Imager instruments. Harris Corp. provided GOES-R’s main instrument payload, the Advanced Baseline Imager, the antenna system for data receipt and the ground segment. The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics provided the Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensor, and Assurance Technology Corporation provided the Space Environment In-Situ Suite.
Once data from the GOES-16 satellite starts arriving online, look for a future article to go into more detail about products and images directly of relevance for the Florida Keys marine community. In the interim, check out www.noaa.gov/satellites for latest information about the NOAA satellite program and www.goes-r.gov for the latest on GOES-16.
Remember to always check the weather before heading out on the water, and as always, be weather-ready, and stay safe!
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