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