United Launch Alliance set to launch GOES S weather satellite
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Looking to join its GOES-16 sibling in providing enhanced weather coverage for the Western Hemisphere, workers at Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) are in the final stages of readying the latest in Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite spacecraft for launch.
The GOES-S satellite has been encapsulated in a protective fairing and stacked atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket. At present liftoff is scheduled to take place sometime with a two-hour window that opens on March 1, 2018, at 5:02 p.m. EST (22:02 GMT).
Alike, but with a different view
Once on-orbit, GOES-S will join its GOES-16 stablemate in providing enhanced weather data for forecasters and climate scientists. The satellite, a collaborative project between NOAA and NASA is based on the Lockheed Martin A2100 satellite bus and is being lofted to augment the current cadre of three active GOES satellites, with another in standby, and will monitor weather in the Western Hemisphere. GOES-S will be given the operational designation of GOES-17 once it reaches its orbital slot at 137 degrees West, approximately 22,300 miles (35,888 kilometers) above the equator.
“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,” stated Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, in an article with AccuWeather.
Matching its GOES-16 twin, GOES-S is outfitted with the latest in weather-detecting gear. The Earth-facing Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) will able to gather weather imaging from across 16 disparate spectral bands – two in the visible spectrum, four near-infrared, and ten infrared – providing three times more channels of data than the satellites it is replacing.
The instrument, built by Harris Environmental Solutions, is far more advanced than what was found on the previous generation of weather satellites. GOES-S be able to gather more imaging data than its predecessors, it will be able to do so with 500 percent greater speed and with a four-fold increase in resolution.
“The ABI’s increased capabilities will help save lives and provide new insight and better forecasts for severe weather, fog, volcanic ash and many other environmental issues,” noted Eric Webster, vice president and general manager, Harris Environmental Solutions, in a release issued by the company.
Another nadir-facing instrument on GOES-S is the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM). Designed to monitor the discharge of lightning – both intra-cloud and cloud-ground strikes – GLM aims to provide meteorologists with a new tool for the forecasting of severe weather.
Scientists discovered a link between storm intensification and lightning activity, with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes often preceded by a rapid upturn in electrical activity. GLM will be able to provide this critical data to forecasters, both day and night, allowing them to more accurately predict the formation of damaging weather.
Beyond providing data on Earth-based weather, GOES-S will also observe our nearest stellar neighbor with a pair of instruments aimed at the Sun, and another pair will monitor the environment around the spacecraft itself.
Both the Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI) and Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) instruments will monitor the Sun for energetic outbursts, such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and solar flares, in order to better predict their impact on Earth.
Rounding out the satellite’s complement of instruments are a magnetometer (MAG) and the Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS). Designed to measure the space surrounding the craft, these tools will provide data critical to the safety of astronauts and to the operation of satellites as well as power utilities on Earth.
From its position at 137 degrees West, GOES-S will provide data to scientists that will allow for more reliable forecasts in the western United States. Indeed, weather and wildfire forecasts in the west will benefit from the upgrade much as has the eastern seaboard with the launch of GOES-16. Alaska, notably, will receive a major boost in accurate weather data.
GOES-15 — the satellite currently covering the Pacific Northwest — lacks the imaging resolution to provide accurate imaging at high latitudes. GOES-S, however, should be able to furnish much more detailed imaging all the way to Alaska’s North Slope.
Delivering GOES-S to orbit is the reliable Atlas V. Arranged in the powerful 541 configuration – a 5-meter payload fairing, 4 solid rocket motors, and a single-engined Centaur stage – this variant of the Atlas V can ferry nearly 18,300 pounds (8,300 kilograms) to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), more than enough to handle the 11,446-pound (5,192-kilogram) fully-fueled GOES-S.
Video courtesy of NOAA
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.