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NOAA, NASA to Launch US Next-Gen Weather Satellite GOES-R This Year

Oct 25, 2016 04:53 AM EDT
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A next-generation weather satellite will provide critical weather data that will substantially improve U.S. weather forecasting.

GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series) series is a collaborative program of NOAA and NASA. According to the program website, GOES-R series satellites will provide continuous imagery and atmospheric measurements of Earth's Western Hemisphere, total lightning data, and space weather monitoring to provide critical atmospheric, hydrologic, oceanic, climatic, solar and space data.

The launch of GOES-R, which was initially scheduled on Nov. 4, has been delayed when Cape Canaveral operations were temporarily halted due to Hurricane Matthew.

The launch team moved the liftoff date to November 16, awaiting approval from the 45th Space Wing. "Once Matthew passed, the launch team began an initial assessment of the launch infrastructure and determined that a move of the launch date is needed based on the storm's impacts," program officials said in a statement. "Throughout the storm, the GOES-R spacecraft remained safe inside Astrotech Space Operations, in Titusville, Florida."

SpaceFlight Now reported recently that a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket--the vehicle that will carry GOES-R--is being assembled at Cape Canaveral's Vertical Integration Facility. In the morning of Oct. 24, the Atlas V first stage rocket was being erected on the mobile launch platform to start the rocket's stacking campaign, the report said. According to the report, the 107-foot-long first stage is powered by RD-180 main engine. The Centaur upper stage will be installed on Saturday.

GOES-R features advanced instruments, such as the Advanced Baseline Imager, which provides images of weather pattern and severe storms as frequently as every 30 seconds, allowing more accurate weather forecasts and severe weather outlooks, and the first-ever Geostationary Lightning Mapper, which will observe cloud-to-ground and cloud-to-cloud lightning strikes to improve warnings of severe weather. It will take six months to check the GOES-R satellite and another six months to fine-tune the data from the instruments before it will be finally ready for use, scientists said.

"Without a doubt, GOES-R will revolutionize weather forecasting as we know it. For weather forecasters, GOES-R is like going from black and white television to super high definition TV, and for the American public GOES-R will mean faster, more accurate weather forecasting and warning," Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service, said in a statement.

"This means more lives saved. It means more time and better environmental intelligence for local officials who have to decide whether to evacuate a community ahead of an approaching hurricane."

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