A new weather satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard an Atlas V rocket on 1 March 2018. The GOES-S is the second new-generation, high-definition weather observation spacecraft to be launched and it’s expected to reach its target geostationary orbit in around two weeks time – at about 36,000km above the Earth’s surface.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA expect the satellite to become fully operational this spring, after several months of testing while in space. Once operational, the satellite will be renamed GOES-West and be used to track storm systems, lightning, wildfires, dense fog and other hazards that threaten the western U.S.
According to Ars Technica, “this is the second of NOAA’s new GOES-R series of satellites (GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites and the GOES-R series of four satellites includes GOES-R/S/T/U). 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 can scan the Earth five times faster at four times the image resolution than previous US geostationary weather satellites, and have triple the number of data channels. The satellites can provide new images and data every 30 seconds.
With these two satellites in geostationary orbit – an orbit that allows them to remain in a stationary position relative to the surface of the Earth – NOAA will have satellite coverage of an area stretching from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand.
The new GEOS-17 will give the US a better understanding of conditions in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, where many of the storm systems that eventually affect the United States originate from. It will also improve forecasting for the Western United States from Alaska to California in particular.