NOAA released the first images from the new weather satellite GOES-18, which was launched March 1 from Cape Canaveral, and confirmed that the spacecraft’s main camera does not suffer from the same cooling system issue that caused degraded visibility on a previous satellite.
The first images of GOES-18 were acquired on May 5 from a position in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (almost 36,000 kilometers) above the equator. GOES 18’s main camera, dubbed the Advanced Baseline Imager, recorded the views in 16 channels, each tuned to see clouds, dust, smoke and water vapor in different wavelengths of light.
Images released Thursday showed strong thunderstorms over northeast Texas, dry conditions over much of Mexico and the American Southwest, and fog near the coasts of California and Chile.
The new satellite is not yet operational, but is expected to provide real-time weather coverage of the western United States, Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific region in early 2023. He will be GOES-17 in the so-called “GOES-West” position.
The GOES-17 camera instrument suffers from performance degradation, most likely caused by deposits in the instrument’s cooling system. The malfunction means that the instrument’s detectors cannot stay at the correct temperature at certain times, resulting in an intermittent loss of some infrared images.
Ground teams were able to restore some of the instrument’s lost function. NOAA officials said earlier this year that the GOES-17 imager is collecting about 97% of its scheduled data, with most image problems confined to times when the satellite is exposed to certain thermal conditions.
According to NOAA, the GOES-18 camera built by L3Harris is working as intended.
“The ABI cooling system is working well with no evidence of the problem affecting its sister satellite GOES-17,” NOAA said Thursday. “The ABI has been redesigned for GOES-18 to reduce the likelihood of future cooling system anomalies. The new design uses a simpler hardware configuration that eliminates the filters that are prone to dirt. ”
GOES-18, formerly known as GOES-T, took off from Cape Canaveral on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. The Atlas 5 placed the Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft in targeted transfer orbit, then the satellite used its own propulsion to achieve circular geostationary orbit on March 14.
At this altitude, satellites orbit the Earth at the same rotational speed of the planet, meaning weather satellites can provide continuous views of the same hemisphere. NOAA renamed GOES-T to GOES-18 once it reached geostationary orbit.
Ground controllers maneuvered the satellite to a test site along the equator at longitude 89.5 degrees W, where GOES-18 took its first images for release. The next step for GOES-18 will be a drive to 136.8 degrees W longitude for additional testing and instrument calibration alongside GOES-17. In early 2023, NOAA plans to transition to GOES-18 as an operational satellite at the GOES-West site, and GOES-17 will become a backup in the US government fleet of weather satellites.
NOAA has also released the first observations from GOES-18’s magnetometer instrument and space environment sensor suite, which will enable the satellite to monitor solar activity and space weather and provide early warning of events affecting communications, power grids, navigation systems and operations from spacecraft could interfere .
From the GOES West orbital site, GOES-18 will be well positioned to track storm systems approaching the US West Coast, Pacific hurricanes, wildfires and volcanic plumes in the Pacific region.
GOES-18 also carries a Lightning Mapper to detect and locate lightning strikes in the satellite’s field of view. The spacecraft houses a transponder for receiving and relaying distress messages that is part of a global space-based search and rescue repeater network.
GOES-18 is the third satellite in NOAA’s latest generation of geostationary weather satellites. The first, GOES-16, was launched and operational in 2016 and covers the US East Coast and Atlantic region, an area ripe for hurricane development.
A fourth and final current-generation satellite, named GOES-U, is under construction and is scheduled for launch in 2024.
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