launch
November 21, 2016

NASA just launched the world’s most advanced weather satellite

The first of four advanced weather satellites designed to give meteorologists a better-than-ever look at storm fronts and other severe climatological phenomena launched this weekend from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, NASA officials have announced.

Known as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R), the satellite is being managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is set to radically change weather forecasting by providing constant high-definition views of hurricanes and other storms throughout the Western Hemisphere, according to Reuters reports.

Launched at 6:42pm EST on Saturday night, the new probe is one of four satellites collectively called GOES-R that NOAA’s Satellite and Information Services division assistant administrator Stephen Volz told Space.com will “revolutionize weather forecasting as we know it.”

“For weather forecasters, GOES-R will be similar to going from a black-and-white TV to super-high-definition TV,” Volz said during a pre-launch press conference. “For the... public, that will mean faster, more accurate weather forecasts and warnings. That also will mean more lives saved and better environmental intelligence for state and local officials and all decision makers.”

Probe includes first-ever functional lightning mapper in orbit

While the liftoff was delayed by about one hour due to quickly-resolved issues with the rocket and launch range, NASA said that the satellite is on route to its final designated orbit. Once the probe reaches its destination, it will be renamed GOES-16 and will become fully operational in less than one year, following evaluation and validation of each of its six instruments.

Those instruments, the US space agency said, include the first-ever operational lightning mapper in geostationary orbit, which meteorologists will use to closely analyze storms they believe pose the greatest threats to the populace. In addition, GOES-R will utilize its Advanced Baseline Imager to capture pictures of Earth’s weather, oceans and environment in two channels of visible light, four in near-infrared bands, and 10 different infrared spectral channels.

GOES-R also includes enhanced space weather sensors which it will use to monitor solar activity and relay essential data to forecasters, who will they issue alerts and warnings as needed. GOES-R will feature almost three-dozen new or improved meteorological or space-weather instruments in all, according to NASA. It is expected to remain operational for at least a 10 year period.

While this is the 17th satellite to be launched at part of the GOES series, it is the first to be sent into orbit in six years and is a “quantum leap” over its predecessors, NASA Deputy Director of Earth Sciences Sandra Cauffman said during a Thursday press conference, according to Reuters. “It will truly revolutionize weather forecasting.”

In a statement, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan hailed it as “next generation of weather satellites,” and Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator at the Washington-based NASA Science Mission Directorate, added that GOES-R’s launch “represents a major step forward in terms of our ability to provide more timely and accurate information that is critical for life-saving weather forecasts and warnings.”

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Image credit: NASA