Spaceflight Insider

Lockheed Martin completes assembly of GOES-S weather satellite

An artist’s depiction of a GOES-R Series weather satellite in space. Image credit: Lockheed Martin

Although the recently launched GOES-R series satellite, since designated GOES-16, has yet to enter operation, Lockheed Martin hasn’t been idle. The second member of the GOES-R series of weather satellites, GOES-S, is now complete and undergoing mechanical and environmental tests to ensure the spacecraft can handle the rigors of launch and harshness of space.

Lockheed Martin personnel prepare GOES-S for a critical acoustics test. Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin personnel prepare GOES-S for an acoustics test. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

Like its on-orbit sibling, GOES-S represents a revolutionary step forward in weather satellites and will greatly enhance the data available to weather forecasters with the capability to provide near real-time observations.

However, before it can take its place in geostationary orbit and begin supplying data to scientists and forecasters, the spacecraft and its related hardware must undergo rigorous testing here on Earth.

“Mechanical and environmental testing is an important time for the program,” Tim Gasparrini, vice president and GOES-R Series program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said in a news release issued by the company.

While it might seem logical to assume the vehicle would behave identically to its GOES-16 twin, these ground-based tests certify manufacturing and assembly processes, and give engineers the opportunity to resolve any issues with the spacecraft before it’s orbiting 22,300 miles (35,888 kilometers) above the equator.

Indeed, the satellite will undergo a series of tests to simulate the conditions the spacecraft may encounter during launch, deployment, and on-orbit operations. Beyond testing the vehicle’s performance in a space-analog environment, it will also be subjected to intense shaking and tremendous acoustic loads so as to simulate conditions the spacecraft may encounter in the course of its flight atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541.

“This period validates the satellite’s overall design, assembly workmanship, and survivability during launch and on-orbit operation in the cold vacuum of space,” Gasparrini said.

GOES-S represents the second of four of the fourth-generation weather monitoring satellites operated by NOAA. It will eventually be joined by two more of the GOES-R series with GOES-U rounding out the series with a projected launch in 2024. GOES-S has a projected launch date of March 2018.



Curt Godwin has been a fan of space exploration for as long as he can remember, keeping his eyes to the skies from an early age. Initially majoring in Nuclear Engineering, Curt later decided that computers would be a more interesting - and safer - career field. He's worked in education technology for more than 20 years, and has been published in industry and peer journals, and is a respected authority on wireless network engineering. Throughout this period of his life, he maintained his love for all things space and has written about his experiences at a variety of NASA events, both on his personal blog and as a freelance media representative.

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