observations, technology, weather

GOES-R launch imminent (H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, DMS)

fig001-countdown-clock-kscEarly in the Obama Administration, the space program, as we knew it at the time, took a hit. Instead of a continued emphasis on manned space travel, the focus was shifted to science, including climate. The Constellation program was terminated and NASA continued contracts with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corporation to deliver cargo to the space station. SpaceX and other firms were also developing spaceships that could carry passengers to orbit and back.

NOAA’s satellite program was caught in the crosshairs of the resulting contentious budget cutting process. And then came Hurricane Sandy (2012) and NOAA’s funds for the GOES R – GOES U program were restored.

fig002-atlas-v-launch-padThe result was that the once government-driven space program became even more of a government-private sector program. Tough to swallow at the time, locals in the greater Cape Canaveral area hung in there. Now, with President-elect Trump on center stage, the Space Coast may be rewarded for its patience.

Today, Nov. 19, 2016 is, “one small step” in the process. The first in a new series of advanced weather satellites should be launched into geosynchronous (earth-

fig003-atlas-v-on-launch-pad-close-upbased) orbit, around 5:42 p.m. E.S.T. If successful, the GOES-R satellite will go into a holding orbit initially; then, it will, through a series of maneuvers during the next few weeks, be placed in orbit some 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface by early Dec. 2016. As the Earth spins once a day, the satellite will orbit once a day. This will keep a fixed Earth point beneath the satellite. The result will be a capability to view the Earth as though the Earth was not moving. Animated image sequences and an incredible array of data fields covering a fixed area will continue to be available online and on air. The satellite will also provide new and improved views of “space weather,” including sunspots, solar flares and the solar wind. Following testing and validation, the satellite should start providing fully operational data by next summer.

fig004-radisson-hotel-cocoa-beachThe other day, the NASA countdown clock (Fig. 1) showed how close we were to the GOES-R launch. Yesterday, several dozen TV meteorologists and NOAA and NASA officials watched as the Atlas-V rocket was rolled out to Launch Pad 41 (Fig. 2 and Fig. 3). The TV meteorologists filmed, blogged and posted about the rollout.  The day became quite long as, after lunch, the TV broadcasters attended a more than six-hour GOES-R training program in which information was shared about new satellite capabilities.

But on the streets, people were abuzz about the launch. NASA is estimating that some 15,000 people will be watching from nearby vantage points. At least one hotel (Fig. 4) boldly pronounced how it felt about the launch.

As I put down my computer-based “pen,” just moments ago, the countdown clock read T minus six hours three minutes and 22 seconds and counting…

© 2016 H. Michael Mogil

Originally posted 11/19/16

observations, technology, weather

GOES-R is coming (H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, DMS)

NOTE: This is the first of a series I will be writing this week about GOES satellites, specifically the launch of GOES-R. I’m on assignment at the Kennedy Space Center attending a four-day satellite workshop and will be here on Sat., Nov. 19, 2016 to view the launch. As of late Wed., Nov. 16, 2016, Air Force weather forecasters (who provide launch support 365-24-7) have indicated a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time.

fig001-tiros-image-from-1960On Apr. 1, 1960,  a polar orbiting satelliteTIROS-I (Television InfraRed Observation Satellite), transmitted its first image. The image showed clouds across parts of New England and the Canadian Maritimes (Fig. 1). To say that the image was “fuzzy,” would be an understatement. To say that this satellite (and others launched by both the U.S. and other nations in the 1960’s) began a journey in which weather satellites became an integral part of the global weather forecasting system.

fig002-goes-rNow, five and a half decades later, the sixteenth in a series of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) – GOES-R (Fig. 2) – is ready to move toward center stage (tentative launch date is this coming Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 within a launch window from 5:42 p.m. E.S.T to 6:42 p.m. E.S.T.). From the initial GOES A-C series, launched in the 1974-1978 time window, satellite sensors, operational requirements and data transmitting and processing advances (among other things) have evolved to a point that GOES-R is going to be providing unparalleled data gathering for Earth, space and Sun forecasting and research.

Geostationary means that the satellite, positioned some 22,000 miles above a point on the Equator, moves fast enough to remain in position above that fixed point. As a result, the satellite does not see a moving Earth, but rather a stationary one. This is the reason that we get to see satellite clouds and water vapor imagery in motion.

The Advanced Baseline Imager – ABI (just one of several instrument packages onboard – Fig. 2) – will view the Earth with 16 different spectral bands (compared to five on the current GOES). Of the 16 bands, there will be two visible channels, four near-infrared channels, and ten infrared channels.

GOES-R will provide three times more spectral information, four times the spatial resolution, and more than five times faster temporal coverage than the current GOES satellites.

fig003-goes-operational-areasThese satellites will provide continuous multi-spectral imaging and atmospheric measurements of Earth’s Western Hemisphere, total lightning mapping, and space weather monitoring (Fig. 3).

Simply stated, the GOES-R series, will be a game changer on many fronts.

According to the GOES-R program brochure, “The GOES-R Series Program is a collaborative effort between NOAA and NASA to develop, deploy and operate the satellites. The GOES-R series is a four-satellite program (GOES-R, S, T and U) that will extend the availability of the operational GOES satellite system through 2036…”

© 2016 H. Michael Mogil

Originally posted 11/17/16