Spaceflight Now: Atlas launch report

GOES-L latest eye-in-the sky weather spacecraft to launch
Posted: May 1, 2000

The GOES-L weather satellite during pre-launch processing. Photo: NASA/KSC
An advanced U.S. weather spacecraft, which will monitor hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, flash floods and other severe weather, is being prepared for launch May 3 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Liftoff of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, GOES-L, is targeted to occur at 2:27 a.m. EDT from Pad A at Complex 36 on Cape Canaveral.

"GOES satellites are a mainstay of weather forecasting in the United States," said Gerry Dittberner, NOAA's GOES program manager. "They are the backbone of short-term forecasting, or nowcasting. GOES images of clouds are well-known to all Americans; the images can be seen on television weather broadcasts every day."

The real-time weather data gathered by GOES satellites, combined with data from Doppler radars and automated surface observing systems, greatly aids weather forecasters in providing better warnings of severe weather. These warnings help to save lives, preserve property, and benefit commercial interests. For example, in 1999, NOAA's National Weather Service had an average lead time of 11.6 minutes for tornado warnings and an average lead time of 41 minutes for flash floods.

"NASA is excited about providing another fine tool for the National Weather Service to use for weather operations," said Martin A. Davis, NASA's GOES program manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The launch of the GOES-L is the continuation of a 25-year joint program between NASA and NOAA.

The United States operates two meteorological satellites in geostationary orbit 22,300 miles over the Equator, one over the East Coast and one over the West Coast. NOAA GOES-10, launched in 1997, is currently overlooking the West Coast out into the Pacific including Hawaii; it is located at 135 degrees West longitude. NOAA GOES-8, launched in April 1994, is overlooking the East Coast out into the Atlantic Ocean and is positioned at 75 degrees West.

NOAA GOES-L will be stored on orbit ready for operation when needed as a replacement for GOES-8 or -10. "NOAA GOES-L will ensure continuity of GOES data from two GOES, especially for the Atlantic hurricane season," Dittberner said. The satellite will be renamed NOAA GOES-11 once reaching geostationary orbit.

NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service operates the GOES series of satellites. After the satellites complete on-orbit checkout, NOAA assumes responsibility for command and control, data receipt, and product generation and distribution. The GOES spacecraft are a critical component of the ongoing National Weather Service modernization program, aiding forecasters in providing more precise and timely forecasts.

Goddard manages the design, development and launch of the spacecraft for NOAA. NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for government oversight of launch operations and countdown activities. GOES-L, built by Space Systems/Loral, a subsidiary of Loral Space and Communications Ltd., will be launched on an Atlas IIA rocket, built by Lockheed Martin. The on-board meteorological instruments for GOES-L include an imager and a sounder manufactured by ITT Industries Aerospace/Communications Division.

The final satellite in the current GOES series will be launched as required to support NOAA's dual-satellite geostationary observing system.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2A (AC-137)
Payload: GOES-L
Launch date: May 3, 2000
Launch window: 0627-0953 GMT (2:27-5:53 a.m. EDT)
Launch site: SLC-36A, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Pre-launch briefing
Launch preview - Read our story for a complete preview of the GOES-L launch.

Atlas 2A vehicle data - Overview of the rocket that will launch GOES-L into space.

Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.

Launch windows - Available windows for future launch dates of AC-137.

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