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Another Round of GOES-T Testing Complete, Launch Slated for December

24 Mar 2021, 9:45 pm

The third weather satellite in a family of four has completed another important step in it’s rigorous testing to prepare to head into space at the end of 2021!

NOAA’s GOES-T is a next generation geostationary weather satellite, which means it rotates at the same speed and direction as the Earth and watches over the same area from 22,236 miles above.  It’s part of NOAA’s GOES-R series which already has two satellites in orbit, GOES-East and GOES-West.  GOES-16, in operations as GOES-East, keeps watch over most of North America, including the contiguous United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west coast of Africa.  GOES-17, which serves as GOES-West, watches over the western continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand.

Testing has been underway for months at Lockheed Martin’s Littleton, Colorado, facility, where the spacecraft was built.  These tests are to ensure the satellite can handle the harsh conditions both during the launch and once it gets into space.  “These tests give the spacecraft a taste of what it’s going to experience during liftoff,” said Adrián Cuadra, Lockheed Martin GOES-R program director.  “It’s exciting to see the team clear another milestone on the road to launch this December.”


Thermal vacuum testing began back in August, where the spacecraft experienced a vast range of temperatures, with some parts reaching as high as 188 degrees Fahrenheit (87 degrees Celsius) and others dropping as low as minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 55 degrees Celsius).  “We put it in a big chamber, we suck the air out to create a vacuum like it will see in space, and in that chamber we can simulate the temperatures that you’ll see on orbit,” said Pam Sullivan, NOAA’s GOES-R System Program Director.  “So we take it very hot and very cold because it will get very hot and very cold on orbit and so we want to make sure that when it happens on orbit everything still works.”

Most recently completed within two weeks was the acoustics and vibe testing, another round of major tests to help pave the way toward final approval for liftoff planned in December.  There will be more tests that will be completed throughout the spring and summer before the satellite can be shipped from Colorado to Florida later this year.

GOES-T is lifted into the Thermal Vacuum Chamber in Littleton, Colorado. This environmental test ensures the satellite can operate in the harsh environment of space. Credit: Lockheed Martin

These satellites are huge upgrades providing three times the number of spectral channels, four times the resolution, and sending back data five times faster to aid meteorologists during crucial weather events.  “Hurricane tracking, hurricane predictions, as well as our Geostationary Lightning Mapper will help with tornadoes and lightning and severe storms, earlier predictions for that,”  said Laird Kantruss, who was the GOES-West Vehicle Manager at Lockheed Martin.  “So actually that will help protect life and property.”

According to NOAA, GOES-T is on track for a December 2021 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  The satellite will be renamed GOES-18 once it reaches geostationary orbit.  We will be bringing the latest updates on it’s journey from Colorado to Florida to space throughout the year.




About the author
Meredith is a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist as designated by the American Meteorological Society.  She was born and raised in Cleveland but has worked from coast to coast covering almost every type of weather.  Meredith is a weather, space, and STEM journalist and has been live out in the field during destructive tropical storms on the Gulf Coast of Florida, raging wildfires in Southern Cali... Load Morefornia, and covered the wreckage from tornadoes in the Great Plains. In 2009, she reported on the damaging hail storm during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and in 2017, the historic California winter storms that produced record rain totals and devastating flash flooding.  Prior to joining WeatherNation, Meredith worked at KEYT/KKFX in Santa Barbara, CA, KOTA-TV in Rapid City, SD, WWSB-TV in Sarasota, FL, and began her career as an intern at WGN-TV in Chicago.  She was Santa Barbara's "Favorite Weathercaster of the Year" in 2016 and the Community Partner of the Year in 2017 for her volunteer work with Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties and awarded with the 2018 Valparaiso University Alumni Association First Decade Achievement Award. Meredith is the current chair of the American Meteorological Society's Station Scientist Committee, which focuses on raising greater awareness & outreach when it comes to science education for viewers.  She's also an accomplished journalist, producing weather and science stories including rocket launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the new GOES-16 satellite and it's impacts on weather forecasting.  Meredith was personally invited by NASA's Johnson Space Center to interview astronauts on the International Space Station and was the only meteorologist in the nation to do an exclusive report accompanying the GOES-West satellite from Colorado to Florida, reporting on and covering it's launch in 2018.  Meredith's also worked on features that took her paragliding along the coast, white water rafting in Northern California, learning to surf in the Pacific Ocean, and how to be an aerial photographer while flying a single engine plane! Say hi on Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn!