All Weather News

New Ground-Breaking Satellite Mission Plans Underway

11 Jan 2021, 5:25 pm

Within the last decade, significant improvements have been made to our Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), watching over the Western Hemisphere from 22,300 miles above the Earth.  The GOES-R series includes four satellites in the program with two already operational, GOES-East and GOES-West.  GOES-East (formerly known as GOES-16), 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-West (formerly known as  GOES-17), watches over the western continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand.


The remaining two satellites in the series, GOES-T and GOES-U, will complete the fleet and after rigorous testing will be launched into orbit between now and 2024.

READ MORE: Up Close And Personal With NOAA’s GOES-T

The current GOES Fleet in space as of January 2021.  Courtesy:  GOES-R.Gov

According to current projections, the majority of the GOES-R series will take us through the next decade with GOES-U forecast to be operational into 2040.  So, what happens after that?  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is already hard at work on the next observing system that will help advance even further observations on Earth.  NOAA’s Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) satellite system would be the next ground-breaking mission that will supply vital information to address major environmental challenges of the future in support of U.S. weather, ocean and climate operations.  “Right now, NOAA is working to ensure these critical observations are in place by 2031, as the GOES-R Series nears the end of its operational lifetime,” said John Leslie with NOAA’s Office of Communications for Satellites.

NOAA is currently planning, pending approval, a three-satellite GeoXO operational constellation.   Courtesy: NOAA

The satellites will continue the work of the GOES-R series but also move up another level with observations to assist with collecting information on the environment that will support long-term planning as well as short-term response.  “Not only do we get to continue the weather operations that we’re currently making, but we need to expand beyond the current observations to improve observations for weather but also to add observations of our atmospheric composition and also our ocean,” said Pam Sullivan, NOAA’s GeoXO Program Director.

According to NOAA, this observing system will power increasingly sophisticated models that forecast climate-change-driven weather patterns never seen before.  These new capabilities will include improvements in visible/infrared imagery, solar and Space Weather monitoring and advancing even further the geostationary lightning mapper.

Nighttime visible imagery from geostationary orbit will dramatically improve the ability to detect and track fog at night, characterize the formation of tropical storms, monitor power outages/recovery in real-time, provide a new lights-based search and rescue utility, and introduce the ability to detect and track air quality and visibility hazards such as smoke and dust at night.  Courtesy:  NOAA

These advanced observations will include brand new technology to help take the imagery to the next level.  This will include even higher resolution for the imagers on the satellite, even more spectral channels, and more advanced movies of the planet with the newest instruments.

“You can see diurnal changes in the ocean conditions along our coasts and in the Great Lakes,” Sullivan said.

A GeoXO ocean color imager will provide observations of ocean biology, chemistry, and ecology to assess ocean productivity, ecosystem change, coast/inland water quality, and hazards like harmful algal blooms.   Courtesy: NOAA

Within the next decade, scientists hope that we will also be able to receive data from these satellites in a more cloud and internet based format versus from a dish.

“We hope to expand our user base by having the data more accessible,”  Sullivan said.  “Not only easier to get to but easier for people to take our data and combine it with data from other places.”

Want to learn more about the GeoXO program? Check out NOAA’s overview of the mission and the different ways it will impact our forecasts in the future! 

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!