NOAA to get new weapon in wildfire battle with satellite launch

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are teaming up to put a group of advanced weather satellites in space, and the next one is slated to take off this evening.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) is the second in a pair of highly sophisticated weather satellites used to track wildfires cyclones, storms and other natural threats to the US.

The current GOES-East satellite launched in 2016, and it has provided views of developing weather in unprecedented detail. 'It allows the researchers to see the dynamics in a way that just looking at numbers just doesn't reveal - the visual impact is remarkable'.

An Atlas V rocket launch is scheduled Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral that will send a new weather satellite into orbit. "Along with its easterly partner GOES-16, GOES-S will help communities and businesses prepare for potentially risky weather events and minimize the hazard to American families and economies".

A two-hour window for the launch of the GOES-S satellite, which will be known as GOES-17 once in orbit, is set to open at 5:02 p.m. today. GOES-S is the second satellite in NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) - R Series.

At a news briefing this week, NOAA officials explained that the GOES weather satellite will cover North and Central America, the Pacific Ocean, and New Zealand. The state-of-the-art satellite was able to spot wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma a year ago before emergency responders were even alerted.

The AJ-60A was designed specifically to augment the lifting power of the Atlas V, which is used to launch most US national security, scientific and environmental monitoring spacecraft.

Some of the data the new satellite will collect is information about daily weather patterns, flooding, severe storms and wildfires.

After the satellite is deployed, it will spend about three weeks making its way into geostationary orbit.

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper on the satellite may be able to double the 10 to 15 minute lead time for tornado warnings now in place today, Wired reported.

The total cost of the four satellites, from original conception in the 2000s until the end of their mission in the 2030s, will be about $10 billion, according to Tim Marsh, acting GOES-R system program director at NOAA. Development of the advanced satellite program started back in 2005 and will continue through 2036.

  • Jon Douglas