Landmark weather satellite joins sibling after successful Cape launch

Choking fields of wildfires, violent lightning storms and ghosting meadows of dense fog will be seen as never before after a landmark satellite joined its sibling in the silence of space.

The GOES-S satellite, a tech marvel with a 16-channel camera built by the Melbourne-based Harris Corp., launched at 5:02 p.m. from Cape Canaveral.

The launch followed the heralded November 2016 trip made by sibling satellite GOES-R, now GOES-16, when it rocketed into a position where it can more closely monitor the tropics.

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GOES-S will be positioned where it can observe most of the Western Hemisphere, from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand. This includes Alaska, Hawaii and the northeastern Pacific, where many weather systems that affect the continental U.S. form.

Full disk scan from the GOES-16, which launched in November 2016.

“The GOES-S satellite will join GOES-16 and NOAA-20 as NOAA continues to upgrade its satellite fleet,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross earlier this week. “The latest GOES addition will provide further insight and unrivaled accuracy into severe weather systems and wildfires in the western United States.”

GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, and the GOES-S is the latest in a series of GOES satellites that were first launched in 1975. Geostationary means that GOES-S will orbit with the Earth, keeping pace with the planet’s spin.

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The GOES satellites are identified by letters until they are launched and given numbers. GOES-S will become GOES-R17.

GOES-S will scan the Earth five times faster and with four times the resolution of current satellites. Its 16 camera channels are triple the number of the satellite it is replacing.

“GOES-S will provide high-resolution imagery of the western U.S. and eastern Pacific completing our satellite coverage to further improve weather forecasts across the entire country,” said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Southeast region scan from GOES-16.

Lockhead Martin designed and built the 6,280-pound spacecraft that will orbit 22,500 miles above the Earth. The behemoth will be carried into space by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, which has a main engine and four beefy solid rocket boosters.

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This illustration depicts NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S). NASA oversees the acquisition of the spacecraft, instruments and launch vehicles for the GOES-R Series program.
Credits: Lockheed Martin