GOES-S to launch this week joining GOES-16 in NOAA’s new generation of weather satellites

By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
February 26, 2018, 5:04:33 AM EST

America’s fleet of weather satellites will grow this March as NASA and NOAA launch GOES-S, the newest satellite that will help meteorologists to improve forecast accuracy.

GOES-S will be the second member of a new generation of geostationary weather satellites, joining GOES-16, formerly known as GOES-R, which launched on Nov. 19, 2016

“The GOES-S satellite will join GOES-16 as NOAA continues to upgrade its satellite fleet,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said.

“The latest GOES addition will provide further insight and unrivaled accuracy into severe weather systems and wildfires in the western United States,” Ross added.

GOES-S prep

GOES-S being prepared to be encapsulated before being transported and mounted atop the Atlas V rocket that will send it to space. (Image/NOAA)

GOES-S is scheduled to launch atop an Atlas V rocket on March 1, 2018, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and will be placed in a geostationary orbit.

This type of orbit will allow GOES-S to remain at a fixed point over the Earth, providing continuous weather information for the same part of the globe 365 days a year.

Once reaching geostationary orbit, the satellite will be renamed GOES-17 and undergo a non-operational testing period to calibrate the instruments before becoming fully operational.

How GOES-S will be similar to GOES-16

Over the past year, GOES-16 has sent back incredible images of powerful hurricanes, major blizzards and severe thunderstorm outbreaks unlike anything seen before from a weather satellite.

GOES-S will build on the success of GOES-16, being equipped with the same advanced instruments and having the same capabilities.

“We expect GOES-S to be the perfect partner to its sister satellite, GOES-16, whose early returns have surpassed our expectations,” said RDML Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., USN Ret., assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere.

The advanced instruments on GOES-S will provide meteorologists with high resolution information about the weather below, sending back data five times faster at four times the resolution as the previous generation of geostationary weather satellites.

GOES-16 vs 13

Category 5 Hurricane Irma as seen by GOES-16 (left) and GOES-13 (right), captured on the morning of September 5, 2017. The animation on the left clearly shows the improved resolution and faster refresh rate of the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). (Images/NOAA)

One of the satellite’s primary instruments is the Advanced Baseline Imager. This instrument will take images of the weather with 16 different channels, including two visible channels, four near-infrared channels and 10 infrared channels.

The information gathered by this instrument will compromise over 65 percent of all the data gathered by the satellite.

Another groundbreaking instrument aboard GOES-S is the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, which can detect lightning in storms below.

The instruments on GOES-16 and GOES-S have the capability to scan areas of severe weather as often as every 30 seconds, providing meteorologists with a wealth of information in near-real time to help save lives and protect property.

How GOES-S will be different from GOES-16

While the instruments on-board GOES-S will be similar to its twin, the final orbit of the satellite will set it apart from GOES-16.

Before being declared operational, GOES-S will be positioned over the eastern Pacific Ocean in the GOES-WEST position. This will allow the satellite to see parts of the world not in view from GOES-16, which is in the GOES-EAST position.

GOES positions

In the GOES-EAST position, 75 degrees West, GOES-16 covered a region including the Western Coast of Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, and North and South America. In the GOES-WEST position, 137 degrees West, GOES-17 will be able to cover a region including much of North and South America, the Pacific Ocean, and New Zealand. (Image/NOAA)

“GOES-S will provide high resolution imagery of the western U.S. and eastern Pacific Ocean completing our satellite coverage to further improve weather forecasts across the entire country,” said Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS).

With GOES-16 in the east and GOES-S in the west, meteorologists will have high-resolution weather information for a large area of the globe, stretching from western Africa to the shores of New Zealand.

This will provide better information on the wildfires in the western U.S., powerful hurricanes in the Pacific Ocean, and the ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean associated with El Niño and La Niña.

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GOES-16 and GOES-S will be joined by two more satellites in the coming years, each designed to be operational for at least 10 years.

GOES-T, the next of the generations of geostationary weather satellites, is scheduled to be launched in 2020 and will be renamed GOES-18 once reaching orbit.

Unlike its two predecessors, GOES-T will be put in on-orbit storage where it will remain at the ready for when it is needed.

If issues were to arise with GOES-16 or GOES-S, GOES-T would be able to replace one of them much quicker than if a new satellite had to be assembled and launched.

The family of satellites will be rounded out by GOES-U, which is currently slated to launch in 2024.

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