America has a new weather satellite—the second of a new generation of high-definition weather observation spacecraft. The GOES-S spacecraft lifted off from Florida on Thursday evening, launched aboard an Atlas V rocket. It will reach its target geostationary orbit in two weeks, about 36,000km above the Earth’s surface.
From this point, the satellite will undergo several months of testing to determine the health of the spacecraft and its six primary instruments. Officials with NOAA and NASA expect the instrument to become fully operational this fall.
This is the second of NOAA’s new GOES-R series of satellites (GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites). The first of these, now named GOES-16, launched in November, 2016, and it has revolutionized weather forecasting and climate observations. Positioned at about 75 degrees west, which is just east of Florida and cuts through Cuba, GOES-16 provided extraordinary views and data about Atlantic hurricanes such as Harvey, Irma, and Maria during the hyperactive 2017 season.
The GOES-R series of satellites scan the planet five times faster than previous US geostationary weather satellites, and they do so with four times the resolution. For weather events of high interest, such as hurricanes and the frequently changing conditions within the eye of the storm, this new generation of satellite can provide new images and data every 30 seconds. The spacecraft also carry the first operational lightning mappers flown in geostationary orbit.
The satellite that was launched Thursday, which will take the name GOES-17 when it becomes operational, will take up station at 137 degrees west, approximately half way between California and Hawaii. With these two satellites in geostationary orbit, an orbit that allows them to maintain a stationary position relative to the surface of the Earth, NOAA will have advanced satellite coverage of an area stretching from New Zealand to the west coast of Africa.
For the United States, the addition of a second advanced GOES satellite will offer important data for the country. From its vantage point over the western half of the Western Hemisphere, GOES-17 will collect more data about conditions in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, where many of the storm systems that ultimately affect the continental United States originate from. This should provide more lead time for severe storm forecasting and better predictions for storms’ timing and intensity.
The new satellite should also offer greatly improved forecasting for the Western United States, from Alaska to California. In particular, it will better be able to track smoke and dust from wildfires, along with the very high levels of atmospheric moisture that can lead to flooding and mudslides.
Listing image by United Launch Alliance
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