NOAA declares GOES-18 operational ahead of schedule

DENVER – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the newest satellite in its geostationary fleet, GOES-18, operational Jan. 4 and designated it GOES West.

With that designation, the satellite launched in March took over for GOES-17 as one of NOAA’s two primary geostationary satellites. GOES West observes weather and climate conditions over the western United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, and the Pacific.

GOES-17 will move to an orbit over the central United States to serve as a backup for GOES East and GOES West.

Typically, GOES satellites spend about six months in their initial geostationary orbital tracks before moving into position as GOES East or GOES West. For GOES-18, NOAA began moving the satellite in May, two months after launch, and quickly began sharing data from GOES-18 instruments with the National Weather Service and other data users as soon as each instrument was calibrated and the data was validated. .

NOAA accelerated the timeline to make GOES-18 part of its operational fleet due to problems with the cooling system for GOES’17’s Advanced Baseline Imager. By working together, representatives from NASA, NOAA and industry were able to mitigate the impact of the cooling system shortage, but the steps taken shortened the satellite’s life expectancy.

To mitigate the impact of GOES-17’s ABI problem, NOAA shared images from GOES-18 ABI with GOES West data customers from August 1 to September 8 and from October 13 to November 16.

“This allowed forecasters to use GOES-18 imagery during the height of the Pacific hurricane season,” NOAA said in a Jan. 9 news release.

The primary instrument on GOES-18, the third satellite in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R series, is the Advanced Baseline Imager built by L3Harris. The new GOES West, like its predecessor, is also equipped with the Geostationary Lightning Mapper and Solar Ultraviolet Imager built by Lockheed Martin, Extreme X-Ray and Irradiance Sensors from the University of Colorado, Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Space Environment In- Situ Suite from Assurance Technology Corp. and two magnetometers provided by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

GOES-U, the last satellite in the GOES-R series, is scheduled for launch in 2024.

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