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The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (or GOES) program is a key element in United States' National Weather Service (NWS) operations. GOES weather imagery and quantitative sounding data are a continuous and reliable stream of environmental information used to support weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and meteorological research. Evolutionary improvements in the geostationary satellite system since 1974 (the launch of the first Synchronous Meteorological Satellite, SMS-1) have been responsible for making the current GOES system the basic element for U.S. weather monitoring and forecasting. Spacecraft and ground-based systems work together to accomplish the GOES mission.


GOES-8, a decommissioned United States weather satellite.
Four GOES satellites are currently available for operational use:
  • GOES-10 is currently located at 60°W and provides coverage of South America. See note below.
  • GOES-11 is designated GOES-West, currently located at 135°W over the Pacific Oceanmarker.
  • GOES-12 is designated GOES-East, currently located at 75°W over the Amazon River. It provides most of the U.S. weather information.
  • GOES-13 is in on-orbit storage at 105°W.

  • GOES 14 was placed in orbit on 7 July 2009 and is undergoing Post-Launch Testing until December 2009 and then will be placed in on-orbit storage.

Several GOES satellites are still in orbit, either inactive or re-purposed. GOES-3 is no longer used for weather operations, but is a critical part of the communication links between the United States and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Stationmarker. Geostationary satellites cannot ordinarily be seen at all from the poles, but they require station keeping fuel to keep them stationary over the equator. When station keeping fuel runs out, solar and lunar perturbations increase the satellite's inclination so that its ground track begins to describe a figure-8 in the north-south direction. This usually ends the satellite's primary mission. But when the inclination is high enough, the satellite may begin to rise above the polar horizons at the extremes of the figure-8, as is the case for GOES-3. A nine-meter dish was constructed at the station, and communication with the satellite is currently possible for about five hours per day. Data rates are around 2.048 Mbit/s bi-directional under optimum conditions.

GOES-8 (GOES-East when it was in operation) is in a parking orbit, currently drifting about 4°W daily. It was decommissioned on April 1, 2003, and deactivated on May 5, 2004, after the failure of its propulsion system.

Communication was lost for 13 days to GOES-12 on December 4, 2007 when it performed a standard station-keeping maneuver. GOES-11 initially took "full disk" images to cover the lost data until a contingency plan could be implemented. On December 5, 2007, GOES-10 was moved from South America operations to temporarily replace GOES-12 as the GOES-EAST operational satellite. On 9 December, communication with GOES-10 was also temporarily lost, but communication was resumed via a backup antenna. GOES-12 was successfully reactivated and moved back to normal operation following a thrust maneuver on 17 December. The trouble was traced to a leaking thruster valve, which pushed the satellite incorrectly. Emergency procedures were executed to cut off the valve, and a redundant thruster was activated to restore the location of the satellite.

Image:GOES12Fulldiskvisible.png|GOES-12 visible light image.Image:GOES12Fulldiskwatervapor.png|GOES-12 water vapor image.


Designed to operate in geostationary orbit, 35,790 km (22,240 statute miles) above the earth, thereby remaining stationary with respect to a point on the ground, the advanced GOES I–M spacecraft continuously view the continental United States, neighboring environs of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and Central, South America and southern Canadamarker. The three-axis, body-stabilized spacecraft design enables the sensors to "stare" at the earth and thus more frequently image clouds, monitor earth's surface temperature and water vapour fields, and sound the atmosphere for its vertical thermal and vapor structures. Thus the evolution of atmospheric phenomena can be followed, ensuring real-time coverage of short-lived dynamic events, especially severe local storms and tropical cyclones—two meteorological events that directly affect public safety, protection of property, and ultimately, economic health and development. The importance of this capability has been exemplified during hurricanes Hugo (1989) and Andrew (1992).

The GOES I–M series of spacecraft are the principal observational platforms for covering such dynamic weather events and the near-earth space environment for the 1990s and into the 21st century. These advanced spacecraft enhance the capability of the GOES system to continuously observe and measure meteorological phenomena in real time, providing the meteorological community and atmospheric scientists greatly improved observational and measurement data of the Western Hemispheremarker. In addition to short-term weather forecasting and space environmental monitoring, these enhanced operational services also improve support for atmospheric science research, numerical weather prediction models, and environmental sensor design and development. Data is received via the NOAA Command and Data Acquisition ground station at Wallops Island, Virginiamarker The GOES satellites are controlled from the Satellite Operations Control Center (SOCC) located in Suitland, Maryland. During significant weather or other events the normal schedules can be altered to provide coverage requested by the National Weather Service and other agencies.


The main mission is carried out by the primary payload instruments, the Imager and the Sounder. The Imager is a multichannel instrument that senses infrared radiant energy and visible reflected solar energy from the Earth's surface and atmosphere. The Sounder provides data for vertical atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles, surface and cloud top temperature, and ozone distribution.

Other instruments on board the spacecraft are the ground-based meteorological platform data collection and relay, and the space environment monitor. The latter consists of a magnetometer, an X-ray sensor, a high energy proton and alpha detector, and an energetic particles sensor, all used for in-situ surveying of the near-earth space environment. Satellites numbered 12 and greater also carry a solar imager, although none of these imagers is currently active.

In addition, the GOES satellites carry Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) receivers, which are used for search-and-rescue purposes by the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.


Before being launched, GOES satellites are designated by letters (-A, -B, -C...). Once a GOES satellite is launched successfully, it is redesignated with a number (-1, -2, -3...). So, GOES-A to GOES-F became GOES-1 to GOES-6. Because GOES-G was a launch failure, it never received a number. Since then, GOES-H to GOES-N became GOES-7 to GOES-13.

The procurement, design and manufacturing of GOES is overseen by NASAmarker, while all operations of the satellites once in orbit are done by NOAA. GOES spacecraft have been manufactured by Boeing (GOES D-H and N–P) and Space Systems/Loral (A–C and I–M). The two current GOES series (I-M and N-P) are well documented in the " GOES I–M Databook" and " GOES N Databook".

GOES-13 (which was designated GOES-N prior to orbiting) was launched by a Delta IV rocket from Space Launch Complex 37Bmarker at Cape Canaveral Air Force Stationmarker in Floridamarker at 22:11 GMT May 24, 2006. The launch of GOES-O was delayed several times due to various issues. GOES-O was launched Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 6:51 p.m. EDT from Floridamarker's Cape Canaveral Air Force Stationmarker at Space Launch Complex 37 piggybacking on a Delta IV rocket. The GOES-O satellite is a part of the GOES N Series, and was renamed as GOES-14 once it successfully arrived on orbit. GOES-14 will be stored and will be able to be activated for duty if another GOES satellite is decommissioned. GOES-P is scheduled for launch on 4 March 2010. Boeing will build and launch a GOES-Q only if either GOES-O or GOES-P fails to be delivered on-orbit in good working order.

In October 2006, NOAA repositioned GOES-10 (originally GOES-K) over the Amazon region, to provide full time coverage for South American countries. Although NOAA currently sends images to South America, the frequency drops from 30-minutes to 3 hours whenever a storm occurs in North America, which is roughly 40% of the time during the hurricane season.


The GOES-R series of spacecraft is in the development phase. The first GOES-R series satellite is scheduled for launch in fiscal year 2015 and is expected to remain operational through December 2027. The proposed instrument package for the series initially included: the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI); the Hyperspectral Environmental Suite (HES); the Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS), which includes two Magnetospheric Particle Sensors (MPS-HI and MPS-LO), an Energetic Heavy Ion Sensor (EHIS), and a Solar and Galactic Proton Sensor (SGPS); the Solar Imaging Suite (SIS), which includes the Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI), the Solar X-Ray Sensor (XRS), and the Extreme Ultraviolet Sensor (EUVS); the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM); and the Magnetometer.

In September 2006 the Hyperspectral Environmental Suite (HES) was cancelled and the planned number of satellites was reduced from 4 to 2 by NOAA due to concerns about cost overruns. The planned delivery schedule was also slowed down in order to reduce costs. Contracts are planned to be awarded sometime in mid-2009. The expected cost is $7.69 billion—a $670 million increase from the prior $7 billion estimate.

History/status of GOES satellites

  • GOES 1, launched on October 16, 1975, decommissioned
  • GOES 2, launched on June 16, 1977, decommissioned
  • GOES 3, launched on June 16, 1978, used as a communications relay for the South Pole research station.
  • GOES 4, launched on September 9, 1980, decommissioned
  • GOES 5, launched on May 22, 1981, deactivated on July 18, 1990
  • GOES 6 , launched on April 28, 1983, decommissioned
  • GOES-G, launched on May 3, 1986, failed to orbit
  • GOES 7, launched April 28, 1987, used as a communications satellite by Peacesat
  • GOES 8, launched on April 13, 1994, decommissioned
  • GOES 9, launched on May 23, 1995, decommissioned on June 15, 2007
  • GOES 10, launched on April 25]], 1997, in operation
  • GOES 11, launched on May 3, 2000, in operation
  • GOES 12, launched on July 23, 2001, in operation [12504]
  • GOES 13, launched on May 24, 2006, on orbit - in storage
  • GOES 14, launched on June 27, 2009, on orbit - undergoing check-out testing

See also

Further Reading


  1. GOES-10 Status Bulletin
  2. GOES-M status
  3. GOES-I/M MISSION, Goddard Space Flight Center (Accessed 17 Mar 2008)

External links

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