The world’s most sophisticated weather satellite is due to launch in just a few hours aboard a rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The new satellite, named GOES-S at present and to be renamed GOES-17 once it reaches orbit, is the second member of a new generation of weather satellites that will provide accurate data for tracking storms, wildfires, cyclones and other severe weather conditions in the western part of the U.S. once it becomes fully functional later this year. The first GOES satellite was launched in November 2016.
This is “the most sophisticated weather forecast technology ever flown in space,” commented Ajay Mehta of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal agency that oversees the satellite programme.
The first satellite, GOES-16 has already sent back unprecedented images of impending hurricanes and thunder-storm outbreaks that have helped the team with more accurate weather forecasting, and subsequent disaster management and planning.
The satellite includes six instruments of which, two are designed to study the earth’s weather while the other four are intended to keep an eye on the weather in space and how it impacts the Earth.
Interestingly, the two devices designed to look at the earth include the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), special camera built by Harris Corp. The camera currently has the ability to send back pictures at four times the resolution sent by previous such solutions. Meteorologists can also receive updates every 30 seconds, giving incredible access to the team about severe weather forecasting.
A weather instrument called Geostationary Lightning Mapper, built by Lockheed Martin, will also monitor all lightning strikes over North America and the nearby oceans.
The two new GOES satellites join a group of satellites launched by Japan to keep watch over nearly the entire Western Hemisphere all the way from Africa’s west coast to New Zealand.
Two more satellites are part of this mission and scheduled for launch in 2020 and 2024.
Tim Marsh, acting GOES-R system program director at NOAA stated that the total cost of the four satellites, from inception to the conclusion of their mission in the 2030s, will be approximately $10 billion.
The launch is scheduled for March 1 at 5:02 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral, Florida.