Saturday night in Cape Canaveral, Florida a bright light blitzed through the sky shortly after 5:42 local time. No, it wasn’t a bird, and it wasn’t a plane. It was a new weather satellite being launched into orbit around earth. The satellite, GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite), is the first of four satellites that will replace NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration’s) aging weather satellite fleet. GOES-S, GOES-T, and GOES-U are the other three satellites that will be launched to complete the R-Series.
GOES-R can provide pictures of weather every thirty seconds, making it five times faster than its predecessor. It also has three times as many channels. Channels offer different ways to look at and measure the weather. Some of the most common channels you may have heard of are the visible, infrared, and water vapor channel. Different channels help us map different things that a regular camera could not capture, like sea-surface temperatures.
Another big difference is that this satellite will have four times higher resolution. This will make all images clearer and help enhance weather forecasts in the process. It will help to improve hurricane tracking and intensity forecasts. It can also aid general thunderstorm forecasting. But the satellite won’t just focus on Earth. It will also measure the sun helping to predict and monitor solar flares.
The satellite will take some time to settle into its orbit about 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. During that time, its instruments will be calibrated before the data collected can be used. The process can take a few months. The satellite along with the rest of the R-Series class is expected to be used through 2036. The new equipment will cost 11 billion dollars.