NASA puts advanced weather satellite into orbit for western US

NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center is responsible for launch management.

This is "the most sophisticated weather forecast technology ever flown in space", commented Ajay Mehta of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal agency that oversees the satellite programme. The satellite will provide more and better data than now available over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, the birthplace of many weather systems that affect the continental United States. The new satellite, named GOES-S at present and to be renamed GOES-17 once it reaches orbit, is the second member of a new generation of weather satellites that will provide accurate data for tracking storms, wildfires, cyclones and other severe weather conditions in the western part of the USA once it becomes fully functional later this year.

That breadth will help researchers and weather forecasters get a better picture of weather that makes landfall in the western US - weather that often has origins far out to sea, beyond GOES-16's view.

On Wednesday morning, the 197-foot-tall United Launch Alliance rocket rolled out to the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 41, setting the stage for the launch of the newest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, known as GOES-S. The acronym stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.

GOES-16 "turned out to be better than we expected it to be", said National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini, on hand for Thursday's launch.

Under the nose is an 11,000 pound, $220-million weather satellite. From there, it constantly will provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements, real-time mapping of lightning activity, and improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather.

Once GOES-S is positioned in a geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth, after approximately two weeks, it will be renamed GOES-17. The satellite will send down the highest-resolution pictures of hurricanes.

As the monstrous Hurricane Harvey bore down on the vulnerable Houston region and Texas coastline, the satellite helped to not only track the storm but also to help determine when it was safe for emergency personnel to respond and rescue residents in the hurricane-ravaged areas. The state-of-the-art satellite was able to spot wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma previous year before emergency responders were even alerted. GOES-S is the second in the series of weather satellites.


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