NOAA’s newest geostationary satellite will be positioned as GOES-East this fall

This graphic shows the GOES-East orbital position, GOES-16 will be placed in November, along with its coverage reach, compared with GOES-West. (NOAA)

GOES-16, the most advanced weather satellite NOAA has ever developed, will be moved to the GOES-East position at 75 degrees west longitude, once it is declared operational in November. Top officials from NOAA announced the long-awaited decision at today’s 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook news conference in College Park, Maryland.

“As a Florida resident, I am particularly proud of the important work NOAA does in weather forecasting and hurricane prediction,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “GOES-16’s unmatched detail in observations and other data will improve forecasts, provide considerable benefits to the economy, and help improve public safety. It will improve forecasters’ situational awareness and lead to more accurate, timely, and reliable watches and warnings.”

After GOES-16 was launched on November 19, the satellite’s instruments and the data they produce have undergone an extensive engineering checkout and instrument validation period. Once GOES-16 reaches its East location, the current GOES-East satellite (GOES-13) will be placed into orbital storage along with GOES-14 and remain available if needed. From its perch 22,300 miles over the Equator, GOES-16 will be able to see the entire United States.

“GOES-16 will be placed in the east position where it can observe the entire continental U.S., and monitor areas most vulnerable to tornadoes, floods, land-falling tropical storms, hurricanes and other severe storms,” said Stephen Volz, Ph.D., director, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

“We are ready to receive and process GOES-16 data for our forecasts and warnings as soon as the satellite is stationed at GOES-East,” said Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director, NOAA’s National Weather Service. “During testing, the satellite delivered striking images with sharper, more detailed views of evolving weather systems.”

GOES-16 scans the Earth and skies five times faster than NOAA’s current geostationary weather satellites, sending back sharper, more defined images at four times greater resolution as often as every 30 seconds, using three times the spectral channels as the previous model. The higher resolution will allow forecasters to see more details in storm systems, especially during periods of rapid strengthening or weakening. Also, GOES-16 carries the first lightning detector flown in geostationary orbit. Total lightning data (in-cloud and cloud-to-ground) from the lightning mapper will provide critical information to forecasters, allowing them to focus on developing severe storms much earlier.

Meanwhile, GOES-15 will continue as the GOES-West satellite. Positioning satellites in the East and West locations, along with an on-orbit spare, ensures that forecasters get a thorough look at developing weather systems that affect the U.S., from the western Pacific to the coast of Africa.

GOES-16 is the first in a series of four next-generation geostationary satellites. The next, GOES-S, is scheduled to launch by spring 2018 and will be expected to move to the GOES-West location once it is commissioned. GOES-S will be followed by the launches of GOES-T and GOES-U, in 2020 and 2024 respectively.