NASA launches satellite for United States to boost weather forecasts

Mar 04, 2018, 03:57
NASA launches satellite for United States to boost weather forecasts

Once operational, it will provide faster, more accurate data for tracking wildfires, tropical cyclones, fog and other storm systems and hazards that threaten the western United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, Mexico, Central America and the Pacific Ocean, all the way to New Zealand. The newest satellite GOES-S, developed by Lockheed Martin will enter into the constellation of satellites created to observe atmospheric phenomena in the Western hemisphere.

Engineers watch the GOES-S satellite being lowered into the thermal vacuum chamber.

GOES-S is the latest in a series of advanced weather satellites owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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The two new GOES satellites join a group of satellites launched by Japan to keep watch over almost the entire Western Hemisphere all the way from Africas west coast to New Zealand.

The new satellites, known collectively as the GOES-R series, will be phased in over several years, taking over from three older-generation GOES spacecraft now in orbit. When GOES-S becomes operational, its name will become GOES-17, according to NOAA's naming practices, Wired reported. The state-of-the-art satellite was able to spot wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma previous year before emergency responders were even alerted. During Hurricane Harvey, for instance, data from the satellite allowed first responders to know when it was safe to go out as the storm's eye passed overhead, rescuing more than 200 people - and when to take shelter just before the back of the eyewall swept back over.

These early successes prompted National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini to declare that GOES-16's services were "better than we expected" while at the launch for its high-tech partner satellite.

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If all goes well, the satellite will be released into a preliminary elliptical orbit three-and-a-half hours after launch. After about six months at that latitude preparing its instruments and running checks, it will move to its final vantage point over the eastern Pacific Ocean, taking on the official name GOES-West. The satellite will provide real-time weather reports on the western coast of the US thereby extending the range where NOAA can track weather conditions.

Harris' responsibilities, however, don't end with launch as it also manages GOES ground systems, which receive and interpret data from the satellites for dissemination to forecasters, scientists and others.

The four-satellite GOES-R program has a total budget of $10.8 billion through its entire life cycle. Development of the advanced satellite program started back in 2005 and will continue through 2036.

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Two more are planned in this four-satellite series: GOES-T in 2020 and GOES-U in 2024.