A New NOAA Weather Observatory Reaches Geostationary Orbit

Geostationary Orbit

Less than two weeks after its launch from Cape Canaveral, a new NOAA weather observatory has boosted itself into a circular orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator, and officials have renamed it GOES-17 ahead of a test series before it enters service later this year. NOAA traditionally switches from a letter to a number designation for its weather satellites after they reach their operational geostationary orbit. This time, the GOES-S satellite became GOES-17. “Today is a big day for the GOES-S satellite,” NOAA said in a statement.

Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the satellite will also extend antennas to transmit and receive X-band, S-band and L-band signals, and finally deploy a magnetometer boom fitted with sensors to measure the magnetic field around the satellite, data that could help predict geomagnetic storms and other space weather disruptions. GOES-17 will maneuver into a checkout position in geostationary orbit at 89.5 degrees west longitude later this month. Post-launch testing and calibration should begin March 26, and the first imagery from GOES-17 is expected in mid-May, NOAA said.

With GOES-16 and GOES-17 operating in tandem, forecasters will have sharper, more frequent views of storms, fog, wildfires and other phenomena ranging from New Zealand to the west coast of Africa. The latest pair of GOES weather satellites, plus two more due for launch in 2020 and 2024, carry upgraded imagers that can see clouds, lightning, fog, smoke and ash in the atmosphere in much greater resolution and spectral detail than earlier weather observatories. The imagers also return pictures of storms with greater frequency — as often as every 30 seconds.

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