GEO-XO (Geostationary and Extended Orbits) Mission of NOAA
NOAA's GEO-XO satellite system is the ground-breaking mission that will advance Earth observations from geostationary orbit. GEO-XO will supply vital information to address major environmental challenges of the future in support of U.S. weather, ocean and climate operations. 1)
The GEO-XO mission will continue and expand observations provided by the GOES-R Series. GEO-XO will bring new capabilities to address emerging environmental issues and challenges that threaten the security and well-being of every American.
NOAA is working to ensure these critical observations are in place by the early 2030s as the GOES-R Series nears the end of its operational lifetime.
Advancing NOAA’s Mission
GEO-XO will watch over the Western Hemisphere as part of a NOAA observing system that provides world-class environmental information to support both long-term planning and short-term response. This observing system will power increasingly sophisticated models that forecast climate-change-driven weather patterns never seen before.
The GEO-XO satellites will also host space weather instruments and its ground system will provide services for NOAA’s deep space weather satellites.
With GEO-XO, made-to-order data delivery will allow users to customize data access to facilitate more accessible and usable environmental information. Multiple data delivery options will be available, including an internet storefront, mobile device access, and satellite broadcast. Cloud-based product generation will expand data access, increase community involvement, and continuously evolve service.
New and Improved Observations
New technology and scientific advancements will improve observations for weather forecasting and provide new ocean and atmospheric measurements. GEO-XO will provide real-time, high-resolution visible and infrared imagery for monitoring Earth’s weather, oceans, and environment. Data from GEO-XO will contribute to weather forecast models and drive short-term weather forecasts and severe weather warnings. GEO-XO will also provide advanced detection and monitoring of environmental hazards like wildfires, smoke, dust, volcanic ash, drought, and flooding.
Additional observations are recommended to address our changing planet and evolving user needs. NOAA plans to incorporate day/night visible imagery, infrared sounding, atmospheric composition, and ocean color, as well as an improved lightning mapper in the GEO-XO system, pending program approval. These observations will provide vital data to complement those from NOAA’s partners in Europe and Asia, building a critical global observing system.
User Needs Inform GEO-XO Capabilities
NOAA, its users, and industry partners conducted a number of capability studies, observation simulation experiments, value assessments, future scenario evaluations, societal and economic benefit evaluations, and user needs workshops, surveys, and interviews to determine which observations are the highest priority for GEO-XO to provide.
Sustaining a Weather-Ready Nation
Figure 1: Left: Visible and
Infrared Imagery. High-resolution imagery is the backbone of Earth
observations. The GEO-XO imager will improve upon the GOES-R Advanced
Baseline Imager by providing more detailed observations and more
precise tracking of severe weather. GEO-XO will also detect wildfires
four times smaller, potentially increasing lead time to respond to a
blaze before it gets out of control. Additional channels will better
detect water vapor in the atmosphere.
Figure 2: Left: Lightning mapping from geostationary orbit improves severe storm analysis, lightning hazard detection, hurricane intensity prediction, wildfire response, and precipitation estimation, and mitigates aviation hazards. A GEO-XO lightning mapper will potentially improve resolution over the GOES-R Geostationary Lightning Mapper. — Right: A GEO-XO infrared sounder will provide real-time, information about the vertical distribution of atmospheric temperature and water vapor to feed advanced numerical weather prediction models and improve short-term severe weather forecasting (image credit: NOAA/NESDIS)
Supporting Healthy Oceans, Resilient Coasts, and Climate Science
Figure 3: Left: Atmospheric composition measurements from geostationary orbit will improve air quality monitoring to mitigate health impacts from severe pollution and smoke events. — A GEO-XO ocean color imager will provide observations of ocean biology, chemistry, and ecology to assess ocean productivity, ecosystem change, coast/inland water quality, and hazards like harmful algal blooms (image credit: NOAA/NESDIS)
Recommended GEO-XO Constellation
NOAA evaluated a range of space architecture options to select one that will provide the highest priority observations effectively and efficiently. The imager, lightning mapper, infrared hyperspectral sounder, and ocean color instrument are best suited on two spacecraft near the current GOES-East and GOES-West positions, while the atmospheric composition instrument is recommended to reside in a central location. A day/night band, or channel, is recommended as part of either the imager or the sounder.
A combination of NOAA and commercial host spacecraft will support all recommended observations in desired orbital locations in the most cost effective configuration. The selected constellation includes an imager, sounder, and ocean color instrument on a NOAA spacecraft in the east and west positions, lightning mapper on a hosted spacecraft in east and west, and atmospheric composition on a hosted spacecraft in the center.
The NOAA GEO-East and GEO-West spacecraft will also carry NOAA Space Weather Program-provided instruments. These include a solar ultraviolet imager, irradiance monitor, coronagraph, magnetometer, and energetic particle detectors.
Figure 4: The recommended GEO-XO constellation as of January 27, 2021 (image credit: NOAA/NESDIS)
NOAA assessed user needs and studied a variety of potential observational capabilities. These analyses will inform key decisions to be made in 2021. Once the GEO-XO requirements are defined, pilot studies will lead to the preliminary design of the spacecraft and instruments. As the program moves into the critical design stage, NOAA will begin preparing data users for new capabilities the GEO-XO system will provide. The first GEO-XO launch is planned for the early 2030s and will maintain and advance NOAA’s critical geostationary observations through 2055.
Figure 5: GEO-XO timeline (image credit: NOAA/NESDIS)
Collaboration Delivers the Mission
GEO-XO is a NOAA program, supported by NASA. NASA will manage the development of the satellites and launch them for NOAA, which will operate them and deliver data to users worldwide.
Industry partners are critical to meeting the mission. NOAA and NASA will work with commercial partners to design and build the GEO-XO spacecraft and instruments. Instrument definition and design development studies are underway.
• NASA has selected L3Harris Technologies Inc. of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Raytheon Company of El Segundo, California, for the Geostationary and Extended Orbits (GEO-XO) Imager (GXI) Phase A Study contracts. The GXI Phase A Study requirement will provide services to help meet the objectives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GEO-XO program. 2)
- The total value of each of these one-year firm-fixed price contracts is approximately $6M. The work will be performed at the contractors' facilities in Indiana and California.
- The principal purpose of these contracts is to provide a definition-phase study of a geostationary Imager instrument. The Imager will be an infrared and visible imaging instrument that is planned to fly on the NOAA GEO-XO program series of geostationary satellites, with the first launch planned for 2032.
- NOAA’s GEO-XO mission is the groundbreaking development of a satellite system that will advance Earth observations from geostationary orbit. The mission will supply vital information to address major environmental challenges of the future in support of weather, ocean, and climate operations in the United States. The GEO-XO system will continue and expand observations provided by the GOES-R series of satellites. GEO-XO will bring new capabilities to address emerging environmental issues and challenges that threaten the security and well-being of every American. NOAA is working to ensure these critical observations are in place by the early 2030s, as the GOES-R Series nears the end of its operational lifetime.
- The GEO-XO program is a collaborative partnership between NASA and NOAA. NOAA funds, operates, and manages the program, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, develops and acquires the mission system including management of the acquisition of the Phase A formulation contracts.
1) ”Geostationary and Extended Orbits (GEO-XO),” NOAA, March 2021, URL: https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/GEO-XO,
”NASA Selects Geostationary and Extended Orbits Imager Phase A
Contracts,” NASA Press Release 21-002, 31 March, 2021, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/goddard/2021
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).