GOES-M will watch Earth's weather, detect solar storms
Posted: July 20, 2001

An artist's concept of GOES satellite. Photo: NASA
An advanced environmental satellite equipped with instruments to monitor Earth's weather and with a telescope that will be used to forecast geomagnetic storms in space, is being prepared for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

The satellite, GOES-M, will monitor hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, flash floods and other severe weather. It is the first of the GOES satellites equipped with a Solar X-ray Imager to detect solar storms.

Liftoff of GOES-M, or Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, is targeted for July 22 during a launch window that opens at 3:01 a.m. EDT from Pad A at Complex 36. GOES-M will be launched on an Atlas II rocket.

GOES satellites are the workhorses of weather forecasting in the United States. 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.

The Solar X-ray Imager will take a full-disk image of the Sun's atmosphere once every minute. The images will be used by NOAA and the U.S. Air Force to monitor and forecast solar flares, coronal mass ejections, coronal holes and active regions. These features are the dominant sources of disturbances in space weather that lead to geomagnetic storms. The ability to monitor and forecast such events is valuable to operators and users of military and civilian radio and satellite communications systems, navigation systems and power networks, as well as to astronauts, high-altitude aviators and scientists.

"The SXI will provide the kind of improvements in space weather forecasting that satellite imagery did for tracking hurricanes," said Steven Hill, SXI Program Manager at NOAA's Space Environment Center in Boulder, CO.

The images taken by the Solar X-ray Imager will be available in real time to the general public via the World Wide Web, through NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, CO.

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

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

GOES-M will be stored on orbit ready for operation when needed as a replacement for GOES-8 or -10. It joins GOES-11, also in storage. "GOES-M will ensure continuity of GOES data, especially for the Atlantic hurricane season," stated Gerald Dittberner, the NOAA GOES Program Manager. The satellite will be renamed GOES-12 once it reachs 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.

GOES-M, 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 Solar X-ray imager was built by the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL. The on-board meteorological instruments for GOES-M include an imager and a sounder manufactured by ITT Industries Aerospace/Communications Division. The other instruments on GOES-M that will monitor the space environment are: an Energetic Particle Sensor, a High Energy Proton and Alpha Detector Monitor, X-ray Sensors and two magnetometers.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Atlas 2A (AC-142)
Payload: GOES-M
Launch date: July 22, 2001
Launch window: 3:01-4:25 a.m. EDT (0701-0825 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-36A, Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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

Ground track - See the trajectory the rocket will follow during its flight.

Atlas 2A vehicle data - Overview of the rocket to be used in this launch.

Launch windows - Listing of the available times to launch in coming days.

Atlas index - A directory of our previous Atlas launch coverage.