Minimize GOES-R

GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R) 3rd Generation Series

Space Segment     Launch    Mission Status     Sensor Complement    Ground Segment    References

The next-generation (3rd) geostationary weather satellite family of NOAA, under development at NOAA and at NASA, will start with the GOES-R spacecraft and its newly defined sensor complement. Obviously, such an undertaking, truly of decadal dimension, represents a great challenge for any organization, since it involves the development of new space and ground segments, along with observation instruments, of spacecraft, new operation procedures and data processing algorithms - all on the basis of state-of-the-art technology, demanding user requirements, and available funding resources.

GOES-R is a collaborative development and acquisition effort between NOAA and NASA. The overall GOES Program is managed by NOAA of DOC (Department of Commerce), which establishes requirements, provides funding, and distributes environmental data for the United States. DOC is the approval authority for the GOES-R budget, Ground Segment Project procurement and overall program acquisition strategy. NOAA is accountable to DOC for successful GOES-R development and operational mission success. - NASA/GSFC is teaming with NOAA to manage the design and development of the spacecraft series and its sensor complement. Program activities occur at the co-located Program and Project Offices at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Greenbelt, MD.

The definition/requirements phase of the next-generation project started in 2000. The first GOES users conference followed in 2001 (May 22-24, 2001, Boulder CO). A major science objective is to provide considerably improved observation capabilities, relative to the GOES-I-M-O-P series, in four key areas: a) spatial resolution, b) spectral coverage and resolution, c) temporal refreshment rates (also detection, change diagnosis, and tracking of hurricanes), and d) radiometric sensitivity. 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) 11)

The 3rd generation GOES spacecraft series will provide critical atmospheric, hydrologic, oceanic, climatic, solar, and space data. Additional capabilities include improved direct services, such as: GBR (GOES-R Re-Broadcast), S&R (Search & Rescue), DCS (Data Collection System), EMWIN (Emergency Managers Weather Information Network), and LRIT (Low Rate Information Transmission) communications.

The goals of the GOES-R mission are:

• Maintain continuous, reliable operational environmental, and storm warning systems to protect life and property

• Monitor the Earth's surface and space environmental and climate conditions

• Introduce improved atmospheric and oceanic observations and data dissemination capabilities (increased spatial, temporal and spectral resolution)

• Develop and provide new and improved applications and products for a wide range of federal agencies, state and local governments, and private users.

The GOES R system is planned to operate for a period of at least 14 years (design life), providing a remote sensing capability to acquire and disseminate regional environmental imagery and specialized meteorological, climatic, terrestrial, oceanographic, solar-geophysical and other data to central processing centers and distributed direct users. GOES R will operate with improved latency, full hemispheric coverage, including the periods of eclipse at the vernal equinoxes.

An overall consolidated architecture (space segment and ground segment) is considered that can evolve with time to meet at least some of the growing performance requirements of the user community in such service fields as data distribution and analysis.


Figure 1: NOAA continuity of the GOES operational satellite program as of June 2016 (image credit: NOAA) 12)


Figure 2: Artist's view of the GOES-R spacecraft in orbit (image credit: NASA, NOAA, LM)

The GOES-R space segment:

The GOES-R space segment consists of a constellation of one or more satellites each nominally located at 75º West longitude (East location) and at 137º West longitude (West location) at geostationary altitude (~35,786 km), 0º inclination. 13)

The GOES-West location in the GOES-R series is to be 137º W instead of current 135º W -this eliminates conflicts with other satellite systems in X-band frequency at 135º W. During the on-orbit storage period, the satellites will be positioned at 105º West longitude and a Launch/Check-out position is reserved at 90º West longitude. 14) 15)


Figure 3: Illustration of the GOES-R series spacecraft locations (image credit: GOES-R Program Office)

Mission orbit

GEO 75º W and 137º W longitude (and possible 105º W for reduced operations)



Launch vehicle

EELV medium

Launch date

2015 (launch of first spacecraft)

Constellation size

1 spacecraft cluster at each orbital slot

System availability

> 0.82

Mission lifetime

Data and products until year 2030

Spacecraft design life

15 years (10 operational, after 5 years on-orbit spare)

RF communications

Collect and transmit up to 100 Mbit/s instrument payload data from each location continuously


Continuous rebroadcast function at L-band up to 31 Mbit/s utilizing dual polarization

Data collection, rescue

Provide improved continuing services (Search & Rescue, Data Collection, Emergency Manager’s Weather Information Network (EMWIN))

Table 1: Mission requirements for GOES-R 3rd generation spacecraft series

In December 2008, NASA, in coordination with NOAA, selected Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company of Denver to build the GOES-R series spacecraft. The contractor will design, develop and deliver the GOES-R series of spacecraft and provide pre-launch, launch and post-launch support. Lockheed will design and develop the spacecraft in its Newtown PA, Sunnyvale CA, and Denver CO facilities. 16) 17) 18)

In May 2009, NOAA and NASA presented a re-evaluation of the previous contract award resulting in a series of corrective actions. The basic contract is for two satellites with options for two additional satellites. 19)

GOES-R solution builds upon a derivative of the renowned A2100 geosynchronous spacecraft bus (a commercial-type bus with considerable space heritage) and proven precision imaging capabilities from previous remote sensing programs. The satellite dry mass (spacecraft and payloads) is estimated to be < 2800 kg; power capability > 4 kW (EOL). 20) 21)


Figure 4: GOES-R spacecraft configuration (image credit: NASA, NOAA, LM)

On Nov. 9, 2012, the GOES-R Program successfully passed the Mission Critical Design Review (MCDR). 22)

C&DH (Command and Data Handling) subsystem: C&DH serves as the hub for all data received by and sent from the spacecraft. The CCSDS (Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems) recommendations for both packet telemetry and telecommand communications are being implemented.

The SpaceWire bus was selected as the best solution for on-board high-speed communications. GOES-R instrument-to-spacecraft data rates are between 10 and 100 Mbit/s. Also, error detection and correction, at the source packet level, is needed. Early in the GOES-R development program, a decision was made to develop a GOES-R specific SpaceWire technology to aid in cost and risk reduction. In response to this direction reference hardware and software solutions have been fully developed and verified to be compliant with the SpaceWire standard and GOES-R Project requirements. A SpaceWire ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) was developed by BAE (British AeroSpace). 23) 24)

GOES-R project has developed a Reliable Data Delivery Protocol (GRDDP) that is based on SpaceWire capabilities for link connection and re-connection, error detection, virtual channels and routing. This protocol has been presented to and accepted by the SpaceWire Working Group and assigned a Protocol ID (PID) 238. GRDDP, also known as PID 238, does not attempt to duplicate or improve on the considerable capabilities provided by SpaceWire. This protocol builds on top of SpaceWire the ability to recover lost packets, reorder packets, and to ensure to higher level processes that packets are as error free as possible. 25)

The GOES-R requirements for PID 238 are to utilize the SpaceWire capabilities to provide a packet delivery protocol that is able to detect and recover lost packets. The protocol is also required to be flexible so that it can be adapted as needed to different host data throughput requirements and resources. PID 238 intentionally does not specify an implementation. It defines a set of capabilities, but does not require that all capabilities be implemented for all applications.

Of the 5 GOES-R instruments, 2 have implemented PID 238 in FPGAs, and the other three have implemented the protocol in software on the embedded microcontroller in the BAE SpaceWire ASIC. Each of the GOES-R instruments are implementing the SpaceWire and PID 238 interface as a point-to-point architecture. Modeling the proposed spacecraft data system has shown no changes are required in any instrument implementation including the addition of several SpaceWire routers.

The most simple instrument with very small data throughput requirements and minimal processor resources, the largest instrument with the highest data throughput requirements, and the spacecraft C&DH that interfaces to them all have implemented PID 238 to the same specification. All of the instruments as well as the spacecraft recognize a common method for detecting and recovering data link errors and lost packets.

GOES-R instrument data rates ranging from 50kb to 66MHz are easily managed by the combination of PID 238 over SpaceWire. Many parameters of PID 238 can be tuned to match the reliability requirements and a node’s ability to support the required complexity. PID 238 has proven able to adapt to those capabilities and data rates due to its inherent flexibility. PID 238 is documented and extensively tested. It is available and ready to be applied to SpaceWire applications (Ref. 25).


Figure 5: Simplified spacecraft design with multiple SpaceWire routers (image credit: NASA, Ref. 25)

RF communications:

• HRIT (High Rate Information Transmission).

• LRIT (Low Rate Information Transmission). The LRIT service evolves from the current WEFAX system which provides a wide dissemination of GOES imagery and other data at the relatively low information rate of 128 kbit/s. The LRIT has a requirement to upgrade the user information rate to 256 kbit/s.

• EMWIN (Emergency Managers Weather Information Network). A service provided though a transponder onboard the GOES satellite. EMWIN is a suite of data access methods that make available a live stream of weather and other critical information to Local Emergency Managers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

• GRB (GOES Re-Broadcast) services. GRB provides processed mission data to the user community. Raw data from the environmental sensors is processed into calibrated navigated data sets at the receive site. The processed data is then uplinked to GOES for broadcast to users within view of the satellite.


Figure 6: GOES-R mission interfaces (image credit: NOAA, NASA) 26)


Figure 7: Illustration of the deployed GOES-R spacecraft (image credit: NOAA, NASA) 27)

GOES-R and the GOES-R series development status (program milestones)

• September 29, 2020: GOES-T, the third satellite in NOAA’s GOES-R Series, is fully assembled and beginning a set of rigorous tests to ensure it can withstand the harsh conditions of launch and the space environment in which it will reside once it reaches geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above Earth. The testing is taking place at Lockheed Martin Corporation’s Littleton, Colorado, facility, where the spacecraft was built. 28)

- GOES-T is currently undergoing thermal vacuum testing in a large 29' x 65' chamber. During thermal vacuum testing, the spacecraft will experience a vast range of temperatures, with some parts reaching as high as 188º Fahrenheit (87º Celsius) and others dropping as low as minus 67º Fahrenheit (minus 55º Celsius). This testing simulates the extreme temperatures of launch and the space environment.

- After GOES-T is removed from the thermal vacuum chamber, several other tests will follow. The satellite will undergo vibration testing to simulate the stresses experienced during launch to ensure there are no structural weaknesses. Shock testing will make sure the spacecraft can withstand the shocks encountered during separation from the launch vehicle and deployment of the solar panels. Acoustics testing will use high-intensity horns to subject the satellite to extremely high sound pressure that simulates the noises created when the rocket is launched. Finally, GOES-T will undergo electromagnetic testing to ensure that the electromagnetic signals produced by satellite components do not interfere with its operation.

- At specific points during the testing, the Mission Operations Team (MOST) will conduct a set of end-to-end tests that command the spacecraft from the ground system. The end-to-end tests validate the compatibility of flight and ground hardware, software, and communications interfaces in a mission operations context. The full set of environmental, mechanical, end-to-end, and electromagnetic tests will take approximately ten months to complete.

- GOES-T faced some unique challenges to get to this point. In 2018, during post-launch testing of the GOES-17 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), scientists discovered an issue with the instrument’s cooling system. The loop heat pipe (LHP) subsystem, which transfers heat from the ABI electronics to the radiator, is not operating as designed. As a result, the ABI detectors can’t be maintained at their intended temperatures under specific orbital conditions, leading to a partial loss of infrared imagery at certain times.

- An investigation found the most likely cause of the thermal performance issue to be foreign object debris blocking the flow of the coolant in the loop heat pipes. As a result, an independent review team recommended changes to the design of the ABI radiator and loop heat pipes for GOES-T and GOES-U to decrease the chance of future cooling system anomalies. The new design utilizes a simpler hardware configuration that eliminates the filters that are susceptible to debris.

- In addition to changes in the ABI cooling system design, the GOES-T and GOES-U satellites will carry an upgraded magnetometer instrument from the one aboard GOES-16 and GOES-17. The magnetometer, built by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and known as GMAG, is expected to provide improved performance to meet mission requirements. The magnetometer measures magnetic field variations that are associated with space weather.

- In response to COVID-19, new safety and social-distancing procedures have been put into place for personnel who remained on-site at facilities across the country, and new remote access and monitoring systems were implemented. "The safety and well-being of our people is always our top priority,” said Pam Sullivan, GOES-R System Program Director. “Our team continues to rise to the challenge and keep critical work going. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone for staying positive, being flexible and compassionate, and meeting adversity with determination and ingenuity.”

- GOES-T is scheduled to launch in December 2021 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellite will be renamed GOES-18 once it reaches geostationary orbit, and is currently planned to reside in on-orbit storage until it transitions to operational service. It will also be available to provide backup operations for GOES-16 (GOES-East) and GOES-17 (GOES-West), which serve as NOAA’s current operational constellation. The centrally located on-orbit storage will allow GOES-18 to quickly move into position if either GOES-16 or GOES-17 experience an anomaly and to eventually transition to operations as GOES-West.


Figure 8: A technician works to install GMAG on the GOES-T spacecraft (image credit: Lockheed Martin)

- The GOES-R Program is a four-satellite mission that includes GOES-R (GOES-16, launched in 2016), GOES-S (GOES-17, launched in 2018), GOES-T and GOES-U. GOES-U is currently scheduled for launch in 2024. The program is a collaborative effort between NOAA and NASA. NASA builds and launches the satellites for NOAA, which operates them. The satellites provide critical data for weather forecasts and warnings, detection and monitoring of environmental hazards like fire, smoke, fog, volcanic ash, and dust, and monitoring of solar activity and space weather.

• July 1, 2019: GOES-U, scheduled to launch in late 2024, won’t be an exact replica of its siblings in the GOES-R Series. That’s because GOES-U will accommodate an additional space weather instrument, the Naval Research Laboratory’s Compact Coronagraph (CCOR). CCOR recently completed its Critical Design Review, which affirmed that the design meets requirements and is ready to proceed with full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and test. CCOR will image the solar corona (the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere) and help detect and characterize CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections). 29)


Figure 9: Model of CCOR (image credit: Naval Research Laboratory)

- CCOR will provide critical space weather measurements for the NOAA SPWC (Space Weather Prediction Center). CCOR will image the solar corona (the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere) and help detect and characterize CMEs. CMEs are large expulsions of plasma and accompanying magnetic field from the corona. They can be remotely detected with white light imagery of the upper solar corona and CCOR is designed to capture this white light imagery. Sequences of CME images can be used to determine size, velocity, and density of CMEs. CME imagery is currently the only source of 1+ day watches of impending geomagnetic storm conditions.

- Geomagnetic storms are major disturbances of Earth’s magnetosphere caused by shock waves in the solar wind. Geomagnetic storms are the costliest type of space weather events as they can cause widespread damage to power grids, satellites, and communication and navigation systems. CMEs are the primary cause of geomagnetic storms.

- Currently, CME imagery at the Earth-sun line is provided by the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) instrument on board the European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite, launched in 1995. As part of NOAA’s Space Weather Follow-On Program, CCOR was developed at the Naval Research Laboratory to ensure continuity of critical CME imagery. The first CCOR instrument will fly on GOES-U and subsequent CCORs will fly on other missions. CCOR-1 was optimized for geostationary orbit and for GOES-U interfaces.

- CCOR-1 will reside on GOES-U’s Solar Pointing Platform, along with the Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI) and Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS). CCOR was designed to meet NOAA’s observational requirements. CCOR will deliver imagery within 30 minutes of acquisition, compared to up to 8 hours from LASCO. CCOR will capture at least two images of each CME and will be capable of operating during intense solar storms and flares. The addition of CCOR to GOES-U will enhance NOAA’s space weather observational capabilities and improve forecasts.

• April-June 2019: GOES-T has a new launch date. The NOAA/NASA Agency Program Management Council approved a new launch commitment date in May and the program is planning for a December 2021 launch. Design changes to the ABI loop heat pipes to address thermal control issues detected on GOES-16 and -17, and parts issues with the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) required the GOES-R Program to re-plan the GOES-T schedule. The delay does not impact the overall availability of imaging from geostationary orbit; the operational satellites within NOAA’s geostationary constellation – GOES-17 as GOES West, GOES-16 as GOES East, and GOES-14 as the on-orbit spare – continue to deliver key Earth and space weather observations for the nation. The delay also does not increase the risk of a gap in the constellation. GOES-T, when it is launched, is planned to go into on-orbit storage and thus the delay only affects the length of the storage time and not its operational service. 30)

• January 25, 2018: Top officials from NOAA, NASA and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will hold a media teleconference to discuss how NOAA’s GOES-S, the second in a series of next-generation geostationary weather satellites, will help provide faster, more accurate data for tracking lightning, storm systems, wildfires, dense fog and other hazards that threaten the western U.S., Hawaii and Alaska. 31)


Figure 10: Inspection of the GOES-S spacecraft, the second in NOAA's series of next-generation geostationary weather satellites (image credit: NOAA)

• December 9, 2017: NOAA’s GOES-S satellite arrived safely at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility, Florida, to prepare for its launch planned for March 1, 2018. GOES-S was shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Littleton, Colorado, on Dec. 4 aboard a U.S. Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo transport. 32)

- After its arrival, the GOES-S spacecraft was pulled from its shipping container, and is now undergoing additional testing and preparation for encapsulation on top of the rocket that will take it to its geostationary orbit of 35,786 km above Earth.

- “This is a major milestone for the GOES-S team. GOES-16, its sister satellite, is about to become operational and is proving to be a game-changer for weather forecasting and environmental hazard assessment,” said Tim Walsh, acting system program director for the GOES-R Series Program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We are excited to get GOES-S into orbit and extend the area covered by this revolutionary new technology.”

- GOES-S is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. GOES-S will have a mass of ~4,990 kg at launch.

- GOES-S is the second satellite in NOAA’s GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) series, which includes GOES-R, GOES-S, GOES-T and GOES-U. GOES satellites are designated with a letter prior to launch and a number once they achieve geostationary orbit. GOES-R, the first satellite in the series, launched in November 2016 and is now GOES-16. GOES-16 will take its place as NOAA’s GOES-East satellite later this month, keeping an eye on the continental United States and the Atlantic Ocean.

- GOES-S will be designated GOES-17 upon reaching geostationary orbit. After a period of on-orbit test and checkout, GOES-17 will be operational as GOES-West, providing coverage of the western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean. An operational GOES-17 will give the Western Hemisphere two next-generation geostationary environmental satellites. Together, GOES-16 and GOES-17 will observe Earth from the west coast of Africa all the way to Guam.

- Like the other satellites in the series, GOES-S carries a suite of sophisticated Earth-sensing, lightning-detecting, solar imaging and space weather monitoring instruments. The advanced technology on board GOES-S will provide critical data and imagery in near-realtime on severe weather events such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and flash floods, as well as hazards like fog, aerosols, dust storms, volcanic eruptions and forest fires.

- The GOES-R Series is a collaborative acquisition and development effort between NOAA and NASA to develop, launch and operate the satellites. NOAA manages the GOES satellites while NASA oversees the acquisition of the spacecraft and instruments in addition to the management of the launch service through NASA’s Launch Services Program based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


Figure 11: GOES-S now resides in a clean room at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, where it will undergo preparations for launch (image credit: NOAA/NASA, Michael Starobin)

• August 3, 2017: Progress continues on the development of NOAA's GOES-S and GOES-T spacecraft that will follow the successful launch of GOES-16 last November. The GOES-S satellite is fully integrated and is currently undergoing its final functional testing to confirm it successfully passed mechanical and thermal environmental testing. Advancement has also been made in the assembly of the third satellite of the GOES-R series, GOES-T. Five of its instruments were delivered to the Lockheed Martin facility in Littleton, Colorado. The majority of the spacecraft avionics have been integrated to the GOES-T system module and functional testing is underway. 33)

• Dec. 20, 2016: Lockheed Martin has completed assembly of NOAA's GOES-S weather satellite and is now beginning critical mechanical and environmental testing of the spacecraft. GOES-S is the second of four next-generation geostationary weather satellites called the GOES-R series, and will provide a major improvement in our nation's weather observation capabilities leading to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches and warnings. 34)

- The GOES-S satellite is now undergoing environmental testing to simulate the conditions of launch and the extreme environment the satellite will experience in space. It recently completed a reverberant acoustics test and sine vibration test, both designed to expose the satellite to the sound and vibrations of a launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket.

- "Mechanical and environmental testing is an important time for the program," said Tim Gasparrini, vice president and GOES-R Series program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "This period validates the satellite's overall design, assembly workmanship, and survivability during launch and on-orbit operation in the cold vacuum of space."

• Oct./Nov. 2016: The impact of deadly Cat 4 Hurricane Matthew on the Florida Space Coast on October 7, forced the closure of the vital Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and the KSC (Kennedy Space Center) launch and processing vital facilities that ultimately resulted in a two week launch delay due to storm related effects and facilities damage.

- The launch of GOES-R is being rescheduled from November 16, 2016. The postponement was caused by the same minor Atlas V booster issue discovered on ULA's WorldView-4 mission scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The team is actively working towards a resolution. NOAA will provide an update on a new launch date once it is established.

- Liftoff of the NASA/NOAA GOES-R weather satellite atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is now scheduled for Nov. 19, 2016. 35)

• Sept. 27, 2016: The fourth ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager) of Harris Corporation has completed a pre-ship review with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and NASA. The instrument now is complete and will be ready for future integration onto the GOES-U (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – U Series) spacecraft, which is part of NOAA’s next-generation weather satellite series. 36)

- ABI is the world’s most advanced geostationary weather instrument. It captures continuous images of Earth – scanning the entire globe in five minutes versus 26 minutes with the currently operational GOES satellites. For rapidly changing events like thunderstorms, hurricanes, or fires, ABI can take images as often as every 30 seconds. ABI also will provide images of conditions current GOES satellites cannot including dust, sea ice, volcanic ash, fog, clouds, water vapor, vegetation, winds and carbon dioxide.

- An international version of ABI is operational over Japan on board the Himawari-8 satellite, where it has tracked storms like Typhoons Nepartak and Soudelor. Harris has built seven ABIs: four for the United States, two for Japan, and one for South Korea. Harris also built the ground system for NOAA’s GOES-R series of satellites, which will command and control the satellites and all instruments on board, and process 60 times more data than today’s GOES satellites. The ground system will make it possible for meteorologists to receive critical weather data in 30 seconds by using a customized high-speed processing infrastructure designed to reduce information bottlenecks caused by the high data volume.

• August 26, 2016: NOAA's newest weather satellite, GOES-R, left its Colorado home where it was built and is now in Florida where it will undergo preparations for a Nov. 4 launch. On Aug. 22, Lockheed Martin shipped the next-generation satellite aboard an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo transport plane to its Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida. 37) 38) 39)


Figure 12: Lockheed Martin delivered NOAA's GOES-R weather satellite to its Florida launch site on Aug. 22, 2016. The spacecraft was shipped aboard a U.S. Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo plane from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The satellite will now undergo final processing in preparation for a November launch (image credit: Lockheed Martin, NOAA, Space Daily)

• May 11, 2016: The GOES-R team has begun a series of important rehearsals to simulate specific steps in the deployment of the satellite, such as spacecraft separation. Mission rehearsals use a satellite simulator to train operations personnel and test the readiness of the ground system. (The ground system is a global network of receiving stations linked to NOAA which distributes the satellite data and derived products to users worldwide). 40)

- These simulations help test different parts of launch, like orbit raising, post-separation events, solar array deployment, and propulsion system readiness. They simulate both nominal (normal) and contingency operations and are conducted at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility (NSOF) in Suitland, Maryland. “Mission rehearsals are just that. They are practice for the main event, in this case, the launch of the GOES-R satellite,” said GOES-R Series Program Director, Greg Mandt. “By stepping through the engineering needed to operate the satellite, from the launch sequence to the operations of our ground system, we are ensuring our teams are prepared for launch across the board.”

- To date, GOES-R has completed two of six planned mission rehearsals. Four additional mission rehearsals will take place in the coming months and will simulate critical post-launch events like spacecraft separation from the launch vehicle, instrument activations and the magnetometer boom deployment.

• January 8, 2016: As NOAA's GOES-R satellite goes through mechanical testing in preparation for launch in October 2016, the remaining satellites in the series (GOES-S, T, and U) are also making significant progress. 41)

- All GOES-S instruments have been delivered for integration with the satellite and SUVI and EXIS are already installed on the sun-pointing platform. Significant progress has been made on the GOES-S spacecraft itself. Integration and test of the system module, the “brain” of the satellite, is complete. The “body” of the satellite, the core module comprising a majority of the structure and propulsion systems, was delivered in October. These modules were mated to form the spacecraft in late December.

• Nov. 5, 2015: The GOES-R Flight Operations Review (FOR) was held November 2–5, 2015 at the at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland. The FOR was a milestone review in which the program presented its mission operations activities to an independent review team to demonstrate that compliance with all requirements have been verified and are able to execute all phases and modes of mission operations, data processing, and analysis. All criteria were rated "green" by the review board, reflecting the hard work the GOES-R team has put in to get this nationally important system ready for operations. 42)

• September 2015: The SUVI (Solar UV Imager) was the first GOES-S instrument to be delivered for integration with the satellite. SUVI was successfully installed on the GOES-S solar-pointing platform in September. Also in September, the EXIS (Extreme ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors), ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager), and the SEISS instruments that will fly aboard GOES-S were delivered for integration.

• August 2015: Thermal vacuum testing of the GOES-R satellite, which began on July 1, concluded on August 24. During thermal vacuum testing, the satellite was subjected to extreme temperatures to simulate the harsh conditions of launch and the space environment. During the testing, the satellite experienced a vast range of temperatures, with some parts reaching 87ºC and others dropping as low as -55ºC.


Figure 13: The GOES-R satellite is shown post-testing after opening the thermal vacuum chamber door (image credit: Lockheed Martin, NOAA)

• June 3, 2015: Lockheed Martin has completed assembly of NOAA’s GOES-R weather satellite and is now beginning critical testing of the spacecraft. The first of four next-generation geostationary weather satellites, GOES-R will provide a major improvement in quality, quantity and timeliness of weather data collected over the current GOES (Geostationary Operation Environmental Satellite) system that monitors weather over North America. 43)


Figure 14: Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians test the deployment of the large GOES-R satellite solar array before the spacecraft undergoes environmental testing (image credit: Lockheed Martin)

• May 21, 2015: The GOES-R satellite, slated to launch in 2016, is ready for environmental testing. Environmental testing simulates the harsh conditions of launch and the space environment once the satellite is in orbit. The GOES-R satellite and its instruments will undergo a variety of rigorous tests which includes subjecting the satellite to vibration, acoustics and temperature testing as part of this process. 44)

- The environmental testing will take place at Lockheed Martin Corporation’s Littleton, Colorado, facility where the spacecraft is being built. The satellite will be placed inside a large (8.8 m x 19.8 m) vacuum chamber, where it will remain through late summer. During the thermal vacuum test, the satellite is exposed to the extreme hot and cold temperatures it will experience in space as it orbits the Earth with temperatures ranging from -15 ºC to 50 º Celsius. The satellite will also undergo vibration testing to simulate the experience of launching into space aboard a rocket, and electromagnetic testing to ensure it is properly protected from electromagnetic phenomena in space, like solar flares.

- “The start of the environmental testing period is a critically important time for the spacecraft,” said GOES-R Series Program Director, Greg Mandt. “This milestone marks the shift from the development and integration of the satellite to the final testing phases that will prepare the satellite for the rigors of space before its delivery to the launch location later this year.”

• Jan. 12, 2015: All six instruments that will fly on the NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Satellite – R (GOES-R) satellite have now completed integration onto the spacecraft. The instruments are: ABI, GLM, SEISS, EXIS, SUVI and MAG. Together, these instruments will offer significant improvements for the observation of both terrestrial weather and space weather that impact life on Earth. The completion of the instruments integration marks another critical step in the development of the GOES-R satellite, scheduled for launch in March 2016. 45)

• Oct. 9, 2014: The GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mapper) instrument for GOES-R completed development and testing and is now ready for integration with the spacecraft. 46)

• In September 2014, a team of technicians and engineers at Lockheed Martin has successfully mated together the large system and propulsion modules of the first GOES-R series weather satellite at the company’s Space Systems facilities in Littleton near Denver, Colorado. The system module of the A2100-based satellite houses more than 70 electronics boxes that comprise the three major electrical subsystems; command and data handling, communication, and electrical power. The propulsion core contains the integrated propulsion system and serves as the structural backbone of the satellite. 47) 48)

- With the core spacecraft completed, the team will begin installing the six weather and solar-monitoring instruments onto the satellite. All six GOES-R instruments were delivered to begin spacecraft integration. They are: ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager), EXIS (Extreme X-ray Irradiance Sensors), GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mapper), SEISS (Space Environment In-situ Suite), SUVI (Solar Ultraviolet Imager ), and the Magnetometer. Two instruments, EXIS and SUVI were installed on the sun-pointing platform of the spacecraft. 49)

• July 30, 2014: The GOES-R Series Program SIR (System Integration Review) was successfully held July 22–24, 2014 at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corporation in Littleton, CO. The SIR determines if the flight and ground segments and components are available and ready to be integrated into the overall system. It also reviews whether the facilities, support personnel and integration plans and procedures are ready for integration. 50)

• May 2014: Propulsion Core Module delivered to Lockheed Martin, Denver. With the delivery of the system module and the propulsion module, the weather satellite will now undergo the important integration and testing phase so that it can be available in late 2015. 51) 52)

In addition to four satellites in the series (R, S, T and U), Lockheed Martin is also designing and building the SUVI (Solar Ultraviolet Imager) and the GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mapper) instruments that will each fly aboard each of the spacecraft. The SUVI was recently installed on the GOES-R satellite’s sun pointing platform.


Figure 15: The Propulsion Module (left) and System Module (right) of the first GOES-R series weather satellite arrived in Lockheed Martin’s cleanroom near Denver where they will now undergo integration and testing (image credit: Lockheed Martin)

• April 2014: The GOES-R spacecraft system module Pre-Shipment Review was held April 11 at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Newtown, PA. The system module was shipped on April 14 and arrived at Denver International Airport via C-17 large military transport aircraft late on April 15. It then safely completed its journey to Lockheed Martin’s Littleton, CO, facility by convoy on April 16.

• May 2012: GOES-R Weather Satellite Passes CDR (Critical Design Review). The week-long review included a series of comprehensive presentations from each of the system and subsystem subject matter experts representing all facets of the spacecraft. The team demonstrated that the design and operations are understood and sufficiently mature to begin the build and integration phase. 53)

Launch: The GOES-R satellite was launched on November 19, 2016 (23:42:00 UTC) on an Atlas-5 541 vehicle from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. The launch provider is ULA (United Launch Alliance). The GOES-R is the first of the 3rd generation series (R, S, T, U) and its sensor complement are expected to provide continued and significantly improved observation services for a period of at least 22 years. 54) 55)

Orbit: Geostationary orbit, altitude = 35,786 km, longitude = 75º W (GOES East).

GOES-R series satellites will have two operational locations: 75º W and 137º W longitude. Any GOES-R series satellite stored on-orbit will be located at 105º W longitude. Once in geostationary orbit, GOES-R will be known as GOES-16.

Launch: The GOES-S satellite,the second in a new series of four highly advanced geostationary weather satellites, was launched on March 1, 2018 (22:02:00 UTC) on a ULA Atlas-V 541 vehicle configuration from CCAFS (Cape Canaveral Air Force Station) SLC-41 in Florida. 56) 57)

Orbit: Geostationary orbit, altitude = 35,786 km, longitude = 137º W (GOES West). 58)

Once GOES-S is positioned in a geostationary orbit 36,786 km above the Earth, after approximately two weeks, it will be renamed GOES-17. Later this year, after undergoing a full checkout and validation of its six high-tech instruments, the new satellite will move to the GOES-West position and become operational. From there, it will constantly provide advanced imagery and atmospheric measurements, real-time mapping of lightning activity, and improved monitoring of solar activity and space weather.

Figure 16: NOAA GOES-S (GOES-17) - High Definition GOES West! Working together with GOES-16, the two new geostationary weather satellites will provide constant watch over the United States and the Western Hemisphere from the west coast of Africa all the way to New Zealand, helping monitor severe storms, wildfires, and daily weather patterns (video credit: NOAA)


Figure 17: A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the GOES-S mission for NASA and NOAA lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at CCAFS, Fl, (image credit: United Launch Alliance) 59)

Mission status

• August 21, 2020: After more than 10,000 lightning strikes in 72 hours, hundreds of wildfires erupted across California, particularly in the northern part of the state. The fires, which have been exacerbated by a historic heatwave, have burned more than 300,000 acres (1,200 km2) in the state since August 16, 2020. Smoke has spread across large swaths of the western United States and the Pacific Ocean. 60)


Figure 18: Around noon on August 20, 2020, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 17 (GOES-17) captured a natural-color image of the smoke. GOES-17 is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); NASA helps develop and launch the GOES series of satellites (NASA Earth Observatory, images by Lauren Dauphin, using GOES-17 imagery courtesy of NOAA and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) and GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC. Story by Kasha Patel)

- Wildfire smoke is dangerous because it carries tiny, harmful particles into the air. Known as aerosols, these solid and liquid particles can degrade air quality and cause breathing and lung problems, particularly for people with asthma. Long-term exposure to air pollution can also contribute to heart disease and cancer.


Figure 19: This map shows the concentration of black carbon particulates—commonly called soot—at 12:30 a.m. on August 20. Black carbon can harm humans and other animals by entering the lungs and bloodstream; it also plays a role in global warming. The black carbon data come from the GEOS forward processing (GEOS-FP) model, which assimilates data from satellite, aircraft, and ground-based observing systems. In this case, GEOS-FP assimilated fire and aerosol observations with meteorological data on air temperature, moisture, and winds to project the behavior and extent of the plume (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

- On August 19, air quality monitors reported unhealthy levels of pollution across California as the smoke tinged skies with red haze. In fact, atmospheric testing showed Northern California had the worst air quality in the world on that day. Unhealthy air was also reported in Southern California and the Sacramento and Napa Valleys.

- “This amount of smoke is extremely unusual,” said Michael Garay, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The amount of smoke is due to both the large number of individual fires, as well as large ‘fire complexes,’ which are extremely large fires.”

- As of August 20, the largest fire in the state was the SCU Lightning Complex near San Jose. It had burned more than 137,000 acres across five counties since igniting on August 18. The second-largest fire is the LNU Lightning Complex near Sacramento, which had burned more than 130,000 acres since August 17.

- How long the smoke stays in the air will depend a lot on the weather, Garay said. Excessive heat warnings are in effect for several parts of the state through August 21. The National Weather Service issued forecasted poor air quality in California’s Central Valley until the fires are extinguished.

• April 14, 2020: The output of solar energy systems is highly dependent on cloud cover. While weather forecasting can be used to predict the amount of sunlight reaching ground-based solar collectors, cloud cover is often characterized in simple terms, such as cloudy, partly cloudy or clear. This does not provide accurate information for estimating the amount of sunlight available for solar power plants. 61) 62)

- In this week’s Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, from AIP Publishing, a new method is reported for estimating cloud optical properties using data from recently launched satellites. This new technique is known as SCOPE (Spectral Cloud Optical Property Estimation).

- In 2016, NASA began launching a new generation of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, the GOES-R series. These satellites occupy fixed positions above the Earth’s surface. Each is equipped with several sophisticated instruments, including ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager), which can detect radiation upwelling from the Earth at specific wavelengths.

- The SCOPE method estimates three properties of clouds that determine the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface. The first, cloud top height, is the altitude corresponding to the top of each cloud. The second, cloud thickness, is simply the difference in altitude between a cloud’s top and bottom. The third property is the cloud optical depth, a measure of how a cloud modifies light passing through it.


Figure 20: Light coming from the Earth’s surface and detected by the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) aboard the GOES-R satellite, shown as a function of wavelength (image credit: Carlos F. M. Coimbra)

- Clouds are, essentially, floating masses of condensed water. The water takes multiple forms as liquid droplets or ice crystals of varying sizes. These different forms of water absorb light in different amounts, affecting a cloud’s optical depth.

- The amount of light absorbed also depends on the light’s wavelength. Absorption is especially variable for light in the wider infrared range of the spectrum but not so much for light in the narrower visible range.

- The SCOPE method simultaneously estimates cloud thickness, top height and optical depth by coupling ABI sensor data from GOES-R satellites to an atmospheric model. Two other inputs to the model come from ground-based weather stations: ambient temperature and relative humidity at the ground. These are used to adjust temperature and gas concentration vertical profiles in the model.

- The accuracy of the estimated cloud optical properties was evaluated using one year of data from 2018 for measurements taken at seven ground-based locations in the U.S. during both night and day, in all sorts of weather, and for a wide spatial coverage at 5-minute intervals.

- “SCOPE can be used during both day and night with reliable accuracy,” said co-author Carlos F. M. Coimbra. “Due to its high-frequency output during daytime, SCOPE is especially suitable for providing accurate real-time estimates of cloud optical properties for solar forecasting applications.”

• August 1, 2019: GOES-17 Mishap Investigation Board Study Completed. A Mishap Investigation Board appointed by NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has identified the most likely cause for an instrument issue aboard NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-17 satellite that launched March 1, 2018 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 63)

- During postlaunch testing of the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), teams discovered the instrument’s infrared detectors could not be maintained at the required temperatures during some orbital conditions, which resulted in a partial loss of three of the instruments 16 bands during certain times of the year.

- The ABI is GOES-17’s primary instrument for imaging Earth’s weather, oceans, and environment. It views the Earth with 16 spectral bands including two visible, four near-infrared, and 10 infrared channels.

- The mishap board was tasked with gathering and analyzing information, and identifying the proximate causes, root causes, and contributing factors related to the ABI performance issues. It concluded the most likely cause of the ABI cooling issue is a blockage in the instrument’s loop heat pipes, which transfer heat from the ABI electronics to its radiator. The blockage restricted the flow of coolant in the loop heat pipes, causing the ABI to overheat and reducing the sensitivity of infrared sensors.

- NOAA and NASA have adjusted the instrument operations, and are working to improve the quality of the data in order to reduce the impact of the cooling issue.

- GOES-17, in the GOES-West position, is helping forecasters track weather from torrential rain events to wildfires and other environmental hazards throughout the U.S. western region, including California, Alaska and Hawaii. Also, GOES-17 is monitoring typhoons in the eastern Pacific Ocean, including Hawaii.

- The Mishap Investigation Board Summary Report is available online at:

- GOES-17 is one in a series of NOAA’s next generation geostationary weather satellites which include GOES-16, 18 and 19. The advanced instrument technology used on these satellites will result in more timely and accurate forecasts and warnings. It will improve support for the detection and observations of meteorological phenomena. The GOES-R Series program is a collaborative development and acquisition effort between NOAA and NASA to develop, launch and operate the geostationary weather satellites.

• February 12, 2019: GOES-17 is now operational as NOAA’s GOES West satellite. In its new role, GOES-17 will serve as NOAA’s primary geostationary satellite for detecting and monitoring Pacific storm systems, fog, wildfires, and other weather phenomena that affect the western United States, Alaska, and Hawaii. 64)


Figure 21: GOES-17 GeoColor view of the Northern Hemisphere, Feb. 9, 2019 (image credit: NOAA/NESDIS)

- The latest milestone for GOES-17 comes exactly eleven months after the satellite first reached its geostationary orbit at 35,780 km above Earth. Launched March 1, 2018, GOES-17 is NOAA’s second advanced geostationary weather satellite and the sister satellite to GOES-16 (also known as GOES East). Together the two satellites provide high-resolution visible and infrared imagery as well as lightning observations of more than half the globe – from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand, and from near the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle.

- Better weather forecasts for the Western U.S.: GOES-17 has already been helping forecasters track the weather and other environmental hazards in places like California, Alaska and Hawaii. The satellite began transmitting its first images from its new orbital position in November 2018. Since then, forecasters have been using GOES-17 data to see weather forming over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, where many weather systems that affect the continental U.S. first form.

- Until recently, high-quality data coverage of the Pacific Ocean was sparse. Now that GOES-17 data is available, however, forecasters have access to more detailed views of high-impact weather systems and other environmental hazards like wildfire smoke and volcanic ash.

Figure 22: GOES-17 watches a storm nearing California on Feb. 2, 2019 (image credit: NOAA, CIRA)

- For example, GOES-17 helps forecasters predict the intensity and impact of Pacific storms that hit the West Coast. These include atmospheric river events that bring heavy rain and high-elevation snow to California and the Pacific Northwest, especially during the winter months.

- In Hawaii and the central Pacific Ocean, GOES-17’s high-resolution visible and infrared imagery will improve hurricane forecasts and allow meteorologists to better predict areas of intense rainfall. In 2018, Hawaii set a new national rainfall record when 49.69 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. The state also faced several tropical weather threats in what became an active hurricane season in the Central and Eastern Pacific.

Figure 23: GOES-17 watches clouds form around Hawaii's Big Island on Jan. 15, 2019 (image credit: NOAA)

- Forecasters in Hawaii and other remote territories like the Marshall Islands and American Samoa are also now able to track thunderstorms in real-time. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on-board GOES-17 helps forecasters determine when thunderstorms and convective weather events are intensifying or becoming more dangerous. In 2018, the National Weather Service began using GLM data to issue severe thunderstorm warnings and keep the public out of harm’s way.

Figure 24: GOES-17 sees a thick plume of brown smoke from the Woolsey Fire in southern California on Nov. 13, 2018 (image credit: NOAA)

- Tracking wildfires. Among the benefits of GOES-17’s high-resolution and rapid-scan capability is its ability to detect wildfires and monitor smoke coverage in near real-time. The dry climate of the western U.S. makes the region especially vulnerable to wildfires. In 2018, for example, California faced one of its deadliest and most destructive wildfire seasons on record.

- Providing high-definition images as often as every minute, GOES-17 helps forecasters distribute critical information to firefighters and emergency managers that saves lives. Real-time imagery of smoke plumes from fires also improves air quality forecasts.

Figure 25: Denali, the highest peak in North America, casts a shadow over interior Alaska in this GOES-17 imagery from Nov. 16, 2018 (image credit: NOAA)

- GOES-17 has been especially valuable to Alaska, where NOAA’s older geostationary satellites provided far less coverage. The state’s vast territory and sparse population mean that Earth-based observations from radar, aircraft and buoys, are limited.

- The satellite’s combinable image channels (known as “multispectral imagery”) help forecasters distinguish between clouds, snow-covered ground and sea ice around Alaska’s coasts. These advanced imaging capabilities mean safer, more accurate aviation and shipping forecasts, especially during Alaska’s long, dark winter months, when visible satellite imagery is less useful.

- “In my nearly six years forecasting here, I have never seen a product revolutionize our ability to forecast the way GOES-17 has,” said Michael Ottenweller, a National Weather Service forecaster at the Anchorage, Alaska field office. “The advent of GOES over our domain makes forecasting tangibly easier and better.”

- Ottenweller described a recent experience forecasting fog over southwestern Alaska. Before GOES-17 data was available, forecasters would have to wait for data from polar-orbiting satellites passing over Alaska. “Now, not only do I have reliable data, but I can loop that data. This changes everything,” said Ottenweller. “We are excited to see what [GOES-17] brings for the convective and fire weather season.”

- Fog and icy conditions often cause flight delays and impact airport operations. At Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, fog occurs almost daily during winter. The airport is the second-busiest cargo airport in the U.S. and fourth-busiest in the world, which makes understanding the timing of fog and low clouds especially important. Just as GOES-16 data helped airlines mitigate flight delays at San Francisco International Airport in early 2017, GOES-17 data will help forecasters to predict when fog will form and clear with much greater accuracy.

Figure 26: This GOES-17 loop of sulfur dioxide concentrations allowed forecasters to track volcanic ash from the eruption of Alaska’s Veniaminof Volcano. The ash clearly stands out even when other clouds are nearby (Imagery from Nov. 21, 2018), image credit: NOAA

- Among GOES-17’s many benefits to Alaska is the satellite’s ability to track volcanic ash clouds. Data from GOES-17 makes it easier to determine the site of an eruption, as well as the height and direction in which an ash cloud is moving. Forecasters share this information with other agencies, such as the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Volcano Observatory to issue volcanic ash advisories and other warnings to keep air travel safe.

- GOES-15 and GOES-17 working in unison. Now that it is operational, GOES-17 replaces GOES-15 as NOAA’s GOES West satellite. The latter entered service in December 2011. However, due to technical issues with GOES-17’s Advanced Baseline Imager – or ABI, the satellite’s main instrument – GOES-15 and GOES-17 will operate in unison until early July 2019. The overlap will allow scientists and engineers to make sure that GOES-17 is performing adequately before the older GOES-15 satellite gets placed in storage as a backup.

- “The GOES-17 ABI is now projected to deliver more than 97 percent of the data it was designed to provide, a testament to the skill and dedication of the engineers and all the GOES project team members,” said Stephen Volz, Ph.D., director, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. “We are confident the GOES constellation will continue to meet the needs of forecasters across the country.”

• October 22, 2018: NOAA’s GOES-17 satellite (former GOES-7) is getting ready to move to its new vantage point at 137.2º west longitude, allowing us to see the weather at high resolution in the western U.S., Alaska and Hawaii, and much of the Pacific Ocean. 65)

- For the past seven months, the satellite has been in a temporary position – at 89.5º west longitude – known as its on-orbit checkout location. Since then, scientists have been testing and calibrating GOES-17’s instruments so it is ready for “prime time” when the satellite becomes operational.

- But before that happens, GOES-17 first has to move to its new orbital position over Earth’s equator at 137.2 degrees west longitude. This relocation process, known as “drift,” will take about three weeks to complete.

- On October 24, at 1:40 p.m. EDT, GOES-17 will begin moving westward – at a rate of 2.5º longitude per day – until it reaches its new position on November 13.

- During the drift period, five of GOES-17's instruments (ABI, GLM, SUVI, SEISS and EXIS) will not be collecting or sending us any data. These are the high-tech sensors we use to see clouds at high resolution, map lightning flashes, or monitor solar flares from space. Other features, including the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system will also be disabled.

- How exactly do these satellites physically get moved from point A to point B thousands of miles above Earth? -NOAA's Office of Satellite Product and Operations team can plan all of these maneuvers using navigation software. For a satellite to change its orbital position, it follows a series of commands uploaded by the operations team to the spacecraft's memory. The mission operations center validates and rehearses these maneuver sequences on the ground using a satellite simulator.

- Normally, satellites maintain the same distance from Earth while operational and transmitting data. During drift, however, GOES-17's altitude will actually be raised slightly (by about 125 miles). This maneuver helps nudge the satellite to begin moving into its new orbital position. After GOES-17 finishes drifting, NOAA's mission operations team will lower the satellite back to its normal operating altitude. This raising and lowering process is used any time a geosynchronous satellite needs to change orbital positions.

- When GOES-17 reaches 137.2º west on November 13, the satellite’s instruments won’t be turned on right away. First, a team of scientists will have to calibrate the instruments to ensure everything is working properly. If everything checks out, the transmitters on-board the spacecraft will be turned back on.

- The next big milestone comes November 15, 2018. That’s when GOES-17 will start sending imagery and data via the GOES Rebroadcast System, and we’ll start seeing the first views of Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean from GOES-17’s new orbital position. It will be an exciting day for all of us satellite enthusiasts, but the satellite won’t officially be operational just yet. First, GOES-17 will undergo three more weeks of testing to make sure it’s ready for “prime time.” If everything is working properly, GOES-17 will go into operations as NOAA’s GOES West satellite on December 10, 2018.

- GOES-17 will considerably improve weather forecasting capabilities across the western United States, particularly in Alaska. “With GOES-17, we will have unprecedented coverage of Alaska from geostationary orbit. The GOES-17 imager has four times the resolution of the previous GOES imager, which will make a substantial difference in northern latitudes,” said Dan Lindsey, senior scientific advisor to the GOES-R Series Program. “GOES-17 is going to provide significant benefit for monitoring hazards often experienced in Alaska such as wildfires, volcanic ash, snow and sea ice.”


Figure 27: This maps shows the geographical coverage area of the GOES East and West satellites (image credit: NOAA)

- As the sister satellite to GOES-16, located in the GOES East position, GOES-17 will extend high-resolution satellite coverage from the west coast of Africa across much of the Pacific Ocean.

The GOES-15 drift

- Around the same time that GOES-17 starts to drift, NOAA’s current GOES West satellite, GOES-15, will also move to a new orbital home in order to “make room” for the newcomer. Currently, GOES-15 is keeping watch over the Western U.S. and the Pacific Ocean from 135º west longitude. On October 23, one day before the GOES-17 drift begins, GOES-15 will start its own orbital relocation. While GOES-17 will move west, GOES-15 will be moving east at a rate of 0.88º longitude per day until it reaches its new orbital position at 128º west.

- Because it won’t need to move as far as GOES-17, the GOES-15 drift will only take nine days to complete. The latter satellite will reach its new orbital position on November 1. Unlike GOES-17, all of GOES-15’s instruments will remain on during the drift, and the satellite will continue to capture and send data back to Earth.

Tandem operations

- Although GOES-15 will hand its “GOES West” title to GOES-17 in mid-December 2018, the former satellite won’t fade into sunset right away. Due to the technical issues with GOES-17’s Advanced Baseline Imager (or ABI, the satellite’s primary instrument), NOAA plans to operate GOES-15 and GOES-17 in tandem for at least six months. This will allow scientists to see how well GOES-17 is working as the new GOES West operational satellite.

- While GOES-17 will experience data outages from some of its infrared channels overnight during the warmest parts of the year (before and after the vernal and autumnal equinox, when the instrument absorbs the highest amount of solar radiation), a team of experts has made excellent progress optimizing the performance of the instrument through operational changes.

- “The GOES-17 ABI is now projected to deliver more than 97 percent of the data it was designed to provide, a remarkable recovery,” said Pam Sullivan, System Program Director for the GOES-R Series Program. “We are confident the GOES constellation will continue to meet the needs of forecasters across the country.”

- Looking ahead, NOAA is also implementing changes to the ABI on its future geostationary satellites, GOES-T and GOES-U, to reduce the risk of cooling system anomalies that were seen in GOES-17. The instrument radiator is being redesigned to improve its reliability. Due to this redesign, the planned launch of GOES-T in mid-2020 will be delayed. Once the new ABI radiator design is approved, NOAA will determine a new launch readiness date.

- But before then, atmospheric scientists and weather enthusiasts can look forward to GOES-17’s next-generation imagery of developing storms, wildfires, and other environmental phenomena in Alaska, Hawaii, and much of the Pacific Ocean extending all the way to New Zealand. We’ll start seeing these views shortly after GOES-17 completes the journey to its new orbital position at 137.2º west – the future home of NOAA’s new GOES West satellite.

• October 2, 2018: NASA and NOAA have appointed a board to investigate an instrument anomaly aboard the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-17, former GOES-S) weather satellite currently in orbit. 66)

- During postlaunch testing of the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument, it was discovered that the instrument’s infrared detectors cannot be maintained at their required operating temperatures under certain seasonal and orbital conditions, resulting in a loss of approximately three percent of the instrument’s availability over the course of a year. This loss exceeds a key design requirement.

- NASA and NOAA senior leadership have determined the need to convene the mishap investigation board, which will work to determine the root or proximate cause of the anomaly and identify actions to prevent occurrences on future satellites. The board will begin its work as soon as possible.

- GOES-17 is one of several next-generation weather satellites in the GOES-R series, including GOES-16, which currently serves as the operational geostationary weather satellite over the U.S. East coast. Later this year, GOES-17 will become operational as the GOES West satellite. Two additional satellites, GOES-T and GOES-U, are currently in development. The advanced instrument technology used on these satellites is contributing to more timely and accurate weather forecasts and warnings.

- The GOES-R Series program is a collaborative effort between NOAA, NASA and industry partners. NOAA manages the GOES-R Series program through an integrated NOAA/NASA office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA also oversees the acquisition of the spacecraft, instruments and launch vehicles. Mission operations are performed by NOAA at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland.

• August 8, 2018: While experts continue addressing an issue with the cooling system of GOES-17’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), they have made progress in increasing the available observing time of the affected infrared channels. Due to adjustments in operating procedures, the ABI is demonstrating improved performance from initial observations. 67)

- This new imagery shows data are currently available from all 16 ABI channels. Channel availability will fluctuate seasonally depending on the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the instrument. During the instrument’s “cool” seasons (near the summer and winter solstice), all channels are expected to be available 24 hours per day. During the instrument’s “warm” seasons (before and after the vernal and autumnal equinox), experts estimate 7 channels (bands 1-7) will be available 24 hours per day and the other 9 channels (bands 8-16) will have outages of 2-6 hours per night. These estimates are preliminary and are still being refined. The warmest part of the season is coming up in early September and performance estimates will need to be confirmed through observation during that time.

- Infrared imagery is used to monitor aerosols, clouds, thunderstorms, hurricanes, rainfall, moisture, atmospheric motion, and volcanic ash. Among the channels that are expected to be fully available is the band that is used for fog/cloud identification at night and for fire/hot spot detection, which will be critical for forecasters in the western U.S.

- NOAA plans to move GOES-17 into operational service in late 2018. The operational configuration will be determined in consultation with the NOAA Office of Satellite and Product Operations, the National Weather Service, and other stakeholders. GOES-17 is currently observing with more channels, at a higher resolution, and with more rapid refresh than what is available from the current GOES West satellite. While the GOES-17 imager will not produce the full set of planned data, it will provide more and better data than currently available. Experts are confident the GOES constellation will continue to meet the operational needs of the National Weather Service and forecasters across the nation.

- While experts continue addressing an issue with the cooling system of GOES-17’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), they have made progress in increasing the available observing time of the affected infrared channels. Due to adjustments in operating procedures, the ABI is demonstrating improved performance from initial observations.


Figure 28: This 16-panel image shows a snapshot of the continental U.S. and surrounding oceans from each of the Advanced Baseline Imager channels at 2:02 p.m. EDT on July 29, 2018. This includes, from top left to bottom right, two visible channels, four near-infrared channels, and ten infrared channels. Each channel has a specific purpose in discerning meteorological and environmental features. A number of features can be seen in this image, including clouds over the mid-Mississippi region and off both coasts, the warm land temperatures over the Western U.S., and atmospheric moisture. This imagery was captured between the instrument’s “cool” and “warm” season, when all 16 channels are available 24 hours per day. During the instrument’s “warm” seasons, varied data outages are expected for 9 of the channels during nighttime hours. The ABI’s increased channels provide three times more spectral information than the previous GOES imager (image credit: NOAA/NASA)

- This new imagery shows data are currently available from all 16 ABI channels. Channel availability will fluctuate seasonally depending on the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the instrument. During the instrument’s “cool” seasons (near the summer and winter solstice), all channels are expected to be available 24 hours per day. During the instrument’s “warm” seasons (before and after the vernal and autumnal equinox), experts estimate 7 channels (bands 1-7) will be available 24 hours per day and the other 9 channels (bands 8-16) will have outages of 2-6 hours per night. These estimates are preliminary and are still being refined. The warmest part of the season is coming up in early September and performance estimates will need to be confirmed through observation during that time.

- Infrared imagery is used to monitor aerosols, clouds, thunderstorms, hurricanes, rainfall, moisture, atmospheric motion, and volcanic ash. Among the channels that are expected to be fully available is the band that is used for fog/cloud identification at night and for fire/hot spot detection, which will be critical for forecasters in the western U.S.

- NOAA plans to move GOES-17 into operational service in late 2018. The operational configuration will be determined in consultation with the NOAA Office of Satellite and Product Operations, the National Weather Service, and other stakeholders. GOES-17 is currently observing with more channels, at a higher resolution, and with more rapid refresh than what is available from the current GOES West satellite. While the GOES-17 imager will not produce the full set of planned data, it will provide more and better data than currently available. Experts are confident the GOES constellation will continue to meet the operational needs of the National Weather Service and forecasters across the nation.

• On March 12, 2018, GOES-S executed its final liquid apogee engine burn, placing the satellite in geostationary orbit at an altitude of 35,786 km. GOES-S is now GOES-17! The satellite will be called GOES-17 for the remainder of its lifespan. GOES satellites are designated a letter prior to launch and renamed with a number once they achieve geostationary orbit. 68)

- On March 13, GOES-17 will perform its second stage solar array deployment, releasing the solar array yoke and solar pointing platform. In the days that follow, several maneuvers will be conducted to put GOES-17 in its 89.5º west longitude checkout position. Finally, the magnetometer boom will be deployed. Post-launch testing and calibration is scheduled to begin on March 26. The first imagery from the satellite is expected in mid-May.


Figure 29: GOES-S view of Earth from its checkout location (image credit: NOAA, NASA)

- GOES-17 will undergo a six-month on-orbit checkout of its instruments and systems, followed by operational handover procedures. The satellite move to its operational location at 137º west longitude is planned for late 2018 to become NOAA’s GOES West.

- GOES-17 will provide faster, more accurate, and more detailed data in near realtime to track storm systems, lightning, wildfires, coastal fog, and other hazards that affect the western U.S., Hawaii and Alaska. An operational GOES-17 will give the Western Hemisphere two next-generation geostationary satellites. Together, GOES-16 and GOES-17 will keep an eye on weather and environmental hazards from the west coast of Africa all the way to New Zealand.

• March 1, 2018: NOAA offers a GOES-East full disk view in Geocolor. 69)

Figure 30: Geocolor image of GOES-East — true color daytime, multispectral IR at night (image credit: NOAA)

Legend to Figure 30: Geocolor is a multispectral product composed of True Color (using a simulated green component) during the daytime, and an Infrared product that uses bands 7 and 13 at night. During the day, the imagery looks approximately as it would appear when viewed with human eyes from space. At night, the blue colors represent liquid water clouds such as fog and stratus, while gray to white indicate higher ice clouds, and the city lights come from a static database that was derived from the VIIRS Day Night Band.

Geocolor was developed at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) and STAR's Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch (RAMMB).

• December, 2017: GOES-East Image Viewer. Now in its new GOES-East position, the advanced GOES-16 satellite has officially joined NOAA’s operational observation network, providing forecasters with sharper, more defined images of severe storms, hurricanes, wildfires and other weather hazards in near real-time 24/7. 70)

- You can view the latest, stunning imagery from GOES-East via NOAA's new GOES-East Image Viewer. The Viewer provides "full disk" views of Earth (covering the Western Hemisphere) as well as views of the continental US and adjacent waters (CONUS). Finally, the viewer also provides "mesoscale" imagery — views of small regional or areas that can help reveal significant environmental features.


Figure 31: Full disk view as seen in GeoColor : 3 Jan. 2018 - 11:45 GMT or 07:45 EST (image credit: NOAA/NESDIS)

Legend to Figure 31: While derived from operational satellites, the data, products, and imagery available on this website are intended for informational purposes only. This website is supported on a Monday-Friday basis, so outages may occur without notice and may not be immediately resolved. Neither the website nor the data displayed herein are considered operational, and should not be used to support operational observation, forecasting, emergency, or other disaster mitigation or response operations, either public or private.

• December 18, 2017: NOAA's GOES-16 weather satellite declared operational. Now in its new GOES-East position at 75.2º W, the advanced GOES-16 satellite has officially joined NOAA’s operational observation network, providing forecasters with sharper, more defined images of severe storms, hurricanes, wildfires and other weather hazards in near realtime 24/7. 71)

- “The GOES-16 satellite provided invaluable data on deadly hurricanes long before they touched the shore this season,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “As it becomes fully operational, GOES-16 will continue to monitor extreme weather events, safeguarding American lives and property from its perch thousands of miles above the Earth.”

- Since its launch in November 2016, NOAA’s GOES-16, even in its testing stage, showed its potential to improve weather forecasts and brought new levels of situational awareness to forecasters, emergency managers, and the public. The satellite covers most of North America – all of the continental U.S., Mexico and most of Canada, from 35,786 km above the Earth.

- “GOES-16 has proven to be one of the most important tools we’ve ever developed for our weather and hazard forecasts,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “From its impressive first image of Earth last January to monitoring tropical storms and wildfires, GOES-16 has and will continue to greatly improve our ability to visualize potential threats, and enhance forecasts and warnings to save lives and protect property.”

- GOES-16 provided critical data which enabled emergency preparations and response during this year’s extremely active hurricane season. The new satellite delivered experimental imagery with detail and clarity never achieved before. Its high resolution – four times higher than previous NOAA satellites – and views of Earth taken every 30 seconds allowed forecasters to monitor how and when storms developed. Data from GOES-16 allowed forecasters to better assess and predict how much rain Hurricane Harvey would produce over Texas and see its rapid intensification, along with hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria.

- GOES-16 data helped monitor and detect wildfires, and gave forecasters detailed images of wildfire smoke, enhancing their air quality forecasts. Imagery from GOES-16 helped forecasters spot new wildfires in California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and determine which fires were hottest and where the fires were spreading. This critical information was shared with and used by firefighters and emergency managers.

- GOES-16 testing showed potential improvements for aviation weather forecasting and airport operations. Forecasters are now able to predict with greater accuracy than before when fog and clouds will form and clear. The new satellite can also detect turbulence, enabling forecasters to issue timely advisories, aiding in aircraft and passenger safety.

- “We are using the GOES-16 data in ways we planned and in ways we didn’t even imagine,” said National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini. “GOES-16 has been a game changer for monitoring hurricanes, wildfires, severe storms, and lightning. Now that it is operational and the data is incorporated into the forecast process, we will be able to use it across all our service areas, starting with winter storms.”

- Data from GOES-16 has been available to NOAA forecasters and the national and international weather modeling and forecasting community during the satellite’s testing phase and will continue to do so.

- GOES-16 is the first in the series of next-generation geostationary satellites, that provides valuable data in support of NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative. The next new NOAA satellite, GOES-S is scheduled to launch March 1, 2018 followed by GOES-T in 2020 and GOES-U in 2024. These satellites will enable NOAA to more closely monitor weather systems over North America, South America, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to help protect lives and property.


Figure 32: Image of Hurricane Harvey captured by GOES-East (GOES-16) on August 15, 2017 (image credit: NOAA)

• October 23, 2017: NOAA is planning to move GOES-16 into its operational orbit at 75.2º west longitude (the GOES East position) starting on November 30, 2017. GOES-16 will officially become GOES-East when all instruments resume regular operations on December 20, 2017. Note: Currently, GOES-16 resides in a central checkout orbit of 89.5º west longitude, where it is in its extended validation phase. 72)

- During the drift period, five instruments (ABI, GLM, SUVI, SEISS, and EXIS) will be placed in safe or diagnostic modes and will not be capturing or distributing data. The magnetometers will be the only instruments that will continue to operate throughout the drift period.

- NOAA’s GOES-13, currently serving as GOES-East, will continue to provide instrument data (allowing a period of overlap) until January 2, 2018, at which time instruments will be turned off and it will moved to its storage location at 60º west.

• September 2017: Highlights from GOES-16’s First Year in Orbit: Even during the current extended test and check-out period, there are already a number of exciting examples of how GOES-16 data were recently used during recent disastrous weather phenomena to track and observe hurricanes and their aftermath during the 2017 Atlantic Basin hurricane season (Ref. 87).

- A full visualization showing satellite data of Hurricane Irma from GOES-13 and GOES-16—a representative frame of which is shown in the screen grab in Figure 33—clearly demonstrates the improved spatial (approximately 0.5 km vs. 1.0 km) and temporal (1 min vs. 15 min) resolutions that arise from GOES-16’s improvements.


Figure 33: This figure demonstrates the increased spatial resolution of satellite data for Hurricane Irma from GOES-13 [left] and GOES-16 [right]. On previous GOES missions these high-resolution images were not routine, but with GOES-16’s advanced capabilities, these images are now operational (image credit: Colorado Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State University)

• June 14, 2017: In western Washington State, fog forms frequently in the summer and fall. Skies are often clearer than in other seasons, allowing surface heat to escape and air to cool, which leads to fog. But fog can happen any time of year if conditions are right. 73)

- Conditions were right on May 20, 2017, when winds pushed coastal fog eastward from the Pacific Ocean into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the channel between Washington state and Vancouver Island. The images above were acquired by the ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager) on GOES-16. The satellite is operated by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), which includes the National Weather Service. NASA helps develop and launch the GOES series of satellites.

- The GOES satellites are particularly well suited to capture the movement of clouds and weather systems because these satellites follow Earth’s orbit and maintain a fixed position over a region. For phenomena that evolve quickly—like storms, or in this case, fog—this so-called geostationary orbit gives a timely view.

- GOES captured this series of images on May 20 as fog rolled into the strait. At 3:02 p.m. local time (22:02 Universal Time), stratus clouds hung low off the coasts of Washington and British Columbia. Within two hours, the fog was about halfway into the strait; two hours later, the fog encountered the sharp landmass of Whidbey Island, which imparted a wave structure to the clouds.

- According to Scott Bachmeier, a research meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, winds that afternoon were about 28 km/ hour, with gusts that evening up to 50 km/ hour. It’s not uncommon for fog to fill the strait; lower-resolution GOES and the Suomi NPP satellite imagers captured similar views in August 2016 and April 2013.

- “This fog feature and its motion were more accurately depicted by the improved spatial and temporal resolution of GOES-16 imagery,” Bachmeier said. “The small-scale “bow shock waves” would probably not have been seen with lower-resolution GOES visible imagery.”


Figure 34: The images are based on preliminary, non-operational data from GOES-16. NOAA recently announced that GOES-16 will be moved to replace the GOES-East satellite by the end of 2017. In addition to observing weather on Earth, GOES-16 carries instruments for monitoring solar activity and space weather (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen, using GOES 16 imagery provided courtesy of the CIMSS (Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies) at the University of Wisconsin. Story by Kathryn Hansen)

• May 25, 2017: GOES-16, the most advanced weather satellite NOAA has ever developed, will be moved to the GOES-East position at 75º west longitude, once it is declared operational in November. Top officials from NOAA announced the long-awaited decision at today’s 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook news conference in College Park, Maryland. 74)

- “As a Florida resident, I am particularly proud of the important work NOAA does in weather forecasting and hurricane prediction,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “GOES-16’s unmatched detail in observations and other data will improve forecasts, provide considerable benefits to the economy, and help improve public safety. It will improve forecasters’ situational awareness and lead to more accurate, timely, and reliable watches and warnings.”

- After GOES-16 was launched on November 19, the satellite’s instruments and the data they produce have undergone an extensive engineering checkout and instrument validation period. Once GOES-16 reaches its East location, the current GOES-East satellite (GOES-13) will be placed into orbital storage along with GOES-14 and remain available if needed. From its perch 35,786 km over the Equator, GOES-16 will be able to see the entire United States.

- GOES-16 scans the Earth and skies five times faster than NOAA’s current geostationary weather satellites, sending back sharper, more defined images at four times greater resolution as often as every 30 seconds, using three times the spectral channels as the previous model. The higher resolution will allow forecasters to see more details in storm systems, especially during periods of rapid strengthening or weakening. Also, GOES-16 carries the first lightning detector flown in geostationary orbit. Total lightning data (in-cloud and cloud-to-ground) from the lightning mapper will provide critical information to forecasters, allowing them to focus on developing severe storms much earlier.

- Meanwhile, GOES-15 will continue as the GOES-West satellite. Positioning satellites in the East and West locations, along with an on-orbit spare, ensures that forecasters get a thorough look at developing weather systems that affect the U.S., from the western Pacific to the coast of Africa.

- GOES-16 is the first in a series of four next-generation geostationary satellites. The next, GOES-S, is scheduled to launch by spring 2018 and will be expected to move to the GOES-West location once it is commissioned. GOES-S will be followed by the launches of GOES-T and GOES-U, in 2020 and 2024, respectively.


Figure 35: This graphic shows the GOES-East orbital position, GOES-16 will be placed in November, along with its coverage reach, compared with GOES-West. (image credit: NOAA)

• March 22, 2017: GOES-16 is ready to embark on another major milestone— The GOES-16 Field Campaign! During this three-month event, an assemblage of high-altitude planes, ground-based sensors, drones, and satellites will be used to fine-tune GOES-16’s suite of brand new instruments. 75) 76)

- Since NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite lifted off on November 19, 2016, a team of scientists and engineers from both NOAA and NASA, has been working around the clock to power on the satellite’s advanced instruments and to get their data back to Earth.

- During this three-month campaign, a team of instrument scientists, meteorologists, GOES-16 engineers, and specialized pilots will use a variety of high-altitude planes, ground-based sensors, unmanned aircraft systems (or drones), the ISS (International Space Station), and the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP polar-orbiting satellite to collect measurements across the United States. From arid desserts and areas of dense vegetation, to open oceans and storms exhibiting lightning activity, these measurements will cover nearly everything NOAA’s GOES satellites see from their orbit 35,786 km above the Earth.

- Although these data are collected on Earth, GOES-16’s operators will obtain similar measurements of the same locations using two of the satellite’s most revolutionary instruments—ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager) and the GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mapper). The data sets will be analyzed and compared to the data collected by the planes, drones, and sensors to validate and calibrate the instruments on the satellite.

- NOAA’s mission is to ensure that data from its satellites are precise, accurate, and widely available, so before GOES-16 becomes operational, it must go through an exhaustive testing phase, wherein its instruments are checked and re-checked using measurements from a vast range of verified sources. — When the testing is complete, all of the GOES-16 Field Campaign information will be permanently stored as reference data at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.


Figure 36: NASA’s ER-2 aircraft takes off from its base of operations at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California to test instruments that will support upcoming science flights for GOES-16 (image credit: NASA)


Figure 37: The Fly’s Eye Geostationary Lightning Mapper Simulator, mounted on NASA’s ER-2 plane, will map lightning strikes using 30 photometers, instruments that measure the intensity of light. These measurements will help calibrate GOES-16’s GLM (image credit: NASA)

• March 6, 2017: The first images of the GLM ( Geostationary Lightning Mapper) on GOES-16 were obtained on Feb. 14 — giving NOAA National Weather Service forecasters richer information about lightning that will help them alert the public to dangerous weather. 77) 78)

- The first lightning detector in a geostationary orbit,GLM , is transmitting data never before available to forecasters. The mapper continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere, so forecasters know when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous. Rapid increases of lightning are a signal that a storm is strengthening quickly and could produce severe weather.

- During heavy rain, GLM data will show when thunderstorms are stalled or if they are gathering strength. When combined with radar and other satellite data, GLM data may help forecasters anticipate severe weather and issue flood and flash flood warnings sooner. In dry areas, especially in the western United States, information from the instrument will help forecasters, and ultimately firefighters, identify areas prone to wildfires sparked by lightning.

- Accurate tracking of lightning and thunderstorms over the oceans, too distant for land-based radar and sometimes difficult to see with satellites, will support safe navigation for aviators and mariners.

- The new mapper also detects in-cloud lightning, which often occurs five to 10 minutes or more before potentially deadly cloud-to-ground strikes. This means more precious time for forecasters to alert those involved in outdoor activities of the developing threat.

- NOAA’s satellites are the backbone of its life-saving weather forecasts. GOES-16 will build upon and extend the more than 40-year legacy of satellite observations from NOAA that the American public has come to rely upon.


Figure 38: This is one hour of GOES-16's GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mapper) lightning data from Feb. 14, when GLM acquired 1.8 million images of the Earth. It is displayed over GOES-16 ABI full disk Band 2 imagery. Brighter colors indicate more lightning energy was recorded; the color bar units are the calculated kW-hours of total optical emissions from lightning. The brightest storm system is located over the Gulf Coast of Texas (image credit: NOAA, NASA)

• February 27, 2017: The first test images from the SUVI (Solar Ultraviolet Imager) instrument aboard NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite have been successful, capturing a large coronal hole on Jan. 29, 2017. The sun’s 11-year activity cycle is currently approaching solar minimum and during this time powerful solar flares become scarce and coronal holes become the primary space weather threat. Once operational, SUVI will capture full-disk solar images around-the-clock and will be able to see more of the environment around the sun than earlier NOAA geostationary satellites. 79)

- The sun’s upper atmosphere, or solar corona, consists of extremely hot plasma, an ionized gas. This plasma interacts with the sun’s powerful magnetic field, generating bright loops of material that can be heated to millions of degrees. Outside hot coronal loops, there are cool, dark regions called filaments which can erupt and become a key source of space weather when the sun is active. Other dark regions are called coronal holes, which occur where the sun’s magnetic field allows plasma to stream away from the sun at high speed, resulting in cooler areas. The effects linked to coronal holes are generally milder than those of coronal mass ejections, but when the outflow of solar particles in intense, they can still pose risks to Earth.

- The solar corona is so hot that it is best observed with X-ray and EUV (Extreme-Ultraviolet) cameras. Various elements emit light at specific EUV and X-ray wavelengths depending on their temperature, so by observing in several different wavelengths, a picture of the complete temperature structure of the corona can be made. The GOES-16 SUVI observes the sun in six EUV channels.

- Data from SUVI will provide an estimation of coronal plasma temperatures and emission measurements which are important to space weather forecasting. SUVI is essential to understanding active areas on the sun, solar flares and eruptions that may lead to coronal mass ejections which may impact Earth. Depending on the magnitude of a particular eruption, a geomagnetic storm can result that is powerful enough to disturb Earth’s magnetic field. Such an event may impact power grids by tripping circuit breakers, disrupt communication and satellite data collection by causing short-wave radio interference and damage orbiting satellites and their electronics. SUVI will allow the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center to provide early space weather warnings to electric power companies, telecommunication providers and satellite operators.


Figure 39: These six images show the sun in each of SUVI's six wavelength, each of which is used to see a different aspect of solar phenomena, such as coronal holes, flares, coronal mass ejections, and so on (image credit: NOAA)

• February 10, 2017: The SEISS (Space Environment In‐Situ Suite) instrument onboard NOAA’s GOES-16 is working and successfully sending data back to Earth. A plot from SEISS data showed how fluxes of charged particles increased over a few minutes around the satellite on January 19, 2017. These particles are often associated with brilliant displays of aurora borealis at northern latitudes and borealis australis at southern latitudes; however, they can pose a radiation hazard to astronauts and other satellites, and threaten radio communications. 80)

- Information from SEISS will help NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center provide early warning of these high flux events, so astronauts, satellite operators and others can take action to protect lives and equipment.

- SEISS is composed of five energetic particle sensor units. The SEISS sensors have been collecting data continuously since January 8, 2017, with an amplitude, energy and time resolution that is greater than earlier generations of NOAA’s geostationary satellites.


Figure 40: This plot of SEISS data shows injections of protons and electrons observed by the MPS-HI (Magnetospheric Particle Sensors-HI) and SGPS (Solar and Galactic Proton Sensor) on January 19, 2017. MPS-HI and SGPS are two of the individual sensor units on SEISS. The fluxes shown are from the MPS-HI telescopes that look radially outward from the Earth, and from the lowest-energy channel observed by the eastward-looking SGPS (image credit: NOAA, NASA)

• February 3, 2017: On January 21, 2017, the GOES-16 EXIS (Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors) observed solar flares. Solar flares are huge eruptions of energy on the sun and often produce clouds of plasma traveling more than a million miles an hour. When these clouds reach Earth they can cause radio communications blackouts, disruptions to electric power grids, errors in GPS navigation, and hazards to satellites and astronauts. The EXIS instrument on NOAA’s GOES-16, built by the University of Colorado’s LASP (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics) in Boulder, Colorado, measures solar flares at several wavelengths and improves upon current capabilities by capturing larger flares, measuring the location of the flares on the sun, and measuring flares in more wavelengths. The GOES-16 EXIS will provide forecasters at the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center with early indications of impending space weather storms so they can issue alerts, watches and warnings. 81)

- Current geostationary satellites measure solar X-ray and extreme ultraviolet fluxes. The higher resolution EXIS instrument will provide new capabilities, including the ability to capture larger solar flares.


Figure 41: An example of EXIS observations at two different wavelengths of a flare that peaked at 11:05 UTC on January 21, 2017 (image credit: NOAA, NASA)

Legend to Figure 41: This was a relatively small flare, yet the brightness of the sun in soft (lower energy) X-rays increased by a factor of 16. EXIS will give NOAA and space weather forecasters the first indication that a flare is occurring on the sun, as well as the strength of the flare, how long it lasts, the location of the flare on the sun, and the potential for impacts here at Earth.

• On January 23, 2017, NOAA released the first images from the GOES-16 (formerly GOES-R) spacecraft. 82) 83) 84)

- The ABI can provide a full disk image of the Earth every 15 minutes, one of the continental U.S. every five minutes, and has the ability to target regional areas where severe weather, hurricanes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions or other high-impact environmental phenomena are occurring as often as every 30 seconds. The ABI covers the Earth five-times faster than the current generation GOES imagers and has four times greater spatial resolution, allowing meteorologists to see smaller features of the Earth’s atmosphere and weather systems.

- “Seeing these first images from GOES-16 is a foundational moment for the team of scientists and engineers who worked to bring the satellite to launch and are now poised to explore new weather forecasting possibilities with this data and imagery,” said Stephen Volz, NOAA’s assistant administrator for Satellite and Information Services, Silver Spring, Maryland. “The incredibly sharp images are everything we hoped for based on our tests before launch. We look forward to exploiting these new images, along with our partners in the meteorology community, to make the most of this fantastic new satellite.”


Figure 42: This composite color full-disk visible image of the Western Hemisphere was captured from NOAA GOES-16 satellite on Jan. 15, 2017 and was created using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the satellite's ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager). The image shows North and South America and the surrounding oceans (image credit: NOAA)


Figure 43: This 16-panel image shows the continental United States in the two visible, four near-infrared and 10 infrared channels on ABI, acquired on Jan. 15, 2017. These channels help forecasters distinguish between differences in the atmosphere like clouds, water vapor, smoke, ice and volcanic ash (image credit: NOAA/NASA)

• January 5, 2017: On December 22, 2016, scientists received preliminary data from the outboard magnetometer (MAG) instrument aboard GOES-16. MAG observations of Earth's geomagnetic field strength are an important part of NOAA’s space weather mission, with the data used in space weather forecasting, model validation, and for developing new space weather models. The GOES-16 MAG samples five times faster than previous GOES magnetometers, which increases the range of space weather phenomena that can be measured. 85)


Figure 44: Outboard MAG uncalibrated data from December 22, 2016 (image credit: NOAA)

• December 12, 2016: Over the last week, GOES-16 has deployed its magnetometer boom; powered on its ABI, GLM, SUVI, and EXIS instruments; and its ground stations are now receiving space weather data from the spacecraft! The satellite's instruments will continue to progress through their planned testing and calibration phases over the next several weeks (Ref. 85).

• On November 29, 2016, NOAA's GOES-R satellite executed its final liquid apogee engine burn without anomaly. This has placed the satellite approximately 35,400 km away with an inclination of 0.0º, meaning it has reached geostationary orbit. GOES-R is now GOES-16! 86)

- On Nov. 30, GOES-16 will perform its second stage solar array deployment, releasing the solar array yoke and solar pointing platform. In the days that follow, the software will be transitioned from the 'orbit raising' mission phase to 'operational,' several maneuvers will be conducted to adjust the satellites precise orbit, and the magnetometer boom will be deployed. Testing and calibration of GOES-16 will then begin.

• November 23, 2016: Since launch on Nov. 19, GOES-R has transitioned to the ‘orbit raising’ phase of the mission and is making its way to geostationary orbit. The spacecraft is currently positioned in a sun-point attitude, which allows its solar array to harness the sun’s power (Ref. 86).

- The GOES-R team has performed the first LAE (Liquid Apogee Engine) burn without anomaly. This engine burn is part of a series of LAEs that will help position GOES-R in geostationary orbit. The next major milestone will be the second stage deployment of GOES-R’s solar array, which is currently scheduled to occur on November 30, 2016.

NASA Partnership

The GOES partnership between NOAA and NASA is but one chapter in a long history of collaboration between the two organizations that goes well beyond the scope of this article.* The initial Basic Agreement between NOAA and NASA to work together on GOES, signed in 1975, established that NOAA would provide requirements and funding for the GOES Program, and that NASA would serve as NOAA’s agent in procuring and overseeing development of the satellites. In 1998 NOAA and NASA updated the Basic Agreement, assigning to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) the responsibility for procuring, developing, and testing GOES Program spacecraft and instruments, and with NOAA responsible for satellite operations, science algorithms, and ground processing.

The partners agreed that NOAA would manage the GOES-R Series Program (including GOES-16 and the future satellites) through an integrated NOAA–NASA office, staffed with personnel from both agencies. Using NOAA’s requirements, NASA would then be responsible for acquiring and developing the platforms, including spacecraft and instrument testing, following NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s rigorous flight program and project management processes. As part of this agreement, GSFC provides spacecraft launch services and then tests the satellite and instruments for the first 6–12 months in orbit before turning the mission over to NOAA/NESDIS (National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service). NASA collaboration roles go further than providing engineering and acquisition services for GOES; the agency also provides scientific support by welcoming NOAA’s scientists to participate in its Earth science research mission teams. The collaborative efforts include algorithm development, pre- and post-launch testing, and designing and implementing the calibration and validation program (usually called “cal/val”), discussed later in this article.

The collaboration is not limited to GOES, but includes NOAA’s polar-orbiting operational satellites, where there is considerable overlap of mission activities. NASA’s role in “Research to Operations,”** an effort that promotes the application of research space products to routine societal benefits, is a key component of the partnership.

International Collaborations

International collaboration is a high priority for NOAA to ensure that investments in satellite observations are interoperable and made available to the public, globally. To meet these goals, NOAA participates in the CEOS (Committee for Earth Observing Satellites), Group on Earth Observations, World Meteorological Organization, and the CGMS (Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites). The primary objectives of the CGMS include providing a forum for technical exchange on meteorological satellite systems; coordinating missions, including establishing complementary orbits, sensors, data formats, processing algorithms, and cal/val activities; and encouraging mutual backup arrangements.

As an example, JMA ( Japan Meteorological Agency) and NOAA have a mutual backup arrangement. The two agencies’ new-generation satellites carry similar advanced imagers [i.e., the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) on the GOES-R series is similar to the JMA’s Advanced Himawari Imager (AHI) on Himawari-8 and -9.*** Along similar lines, AMI (Advanced Meteorological Imager) on the KMA (Korean Meteorological Agency’s) GEO-KOMPSAT-2A satellite is almost identical to ABI, except for a single band.

Another example is the NOAA and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT)’s Long-Term Cooperation Agreement, signed in 2013, which builds on a 30-year partnership in geostationary, polar-orbiting, and ocean altimetry satellites that has resulted in cost-saving benefits and increased the robustness of both agencies’ observing systems. Similar agreements are in place with China, Korea, France, Canada, India, Australia, and other European agencies.

*Another chapter of the story of NASA–NOAA collaboration was told in “Nimbus Celebrates 50 Years” article in the March-April 2015 issue of The Earth Observer [Volume 27, Issue 2, pp. 18-31 — ]

** The concept of “Research to Operations” has steadily evolved under the direction of NASA and NOAA, and has been extensively studied by the National Academy of Science. To learn more, visit or

*** Animated images from the JMA’s AHI on Himawari-8, which is positioned over the Western Pacific, are available at

Table 2: The GOES Series: Success Through an Interagency Partnership and International Collaboration 87)

Minimize GOES-R Continued

Sensor complement (ABI, SUVI, EXIS, GLM, SEISS, MAG)

The GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) family of satellites has a history of supporting meteorological and climate observations dating back to 1974.

Unlike the GOES-I/M and GOES-N/P series, the 3rd generation GOES-R series spacecraft do not contain a “sounder”. Legacy sounding products are derived based on ABI data through the GS (Ground System). - Instead, a GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mapper) will greatly improve storm hazard identification and increase warning lead-time during both day and night, providing continuous monitoring of lightning activity. In addition, the satellite will contain a similar, but more powerful, suite of solar ultraviolet imaging and space weather monitoring equipment in comparison to previous GOES satellites.

On the GOES-R “family tree” of instruments, there are three general classifications for the instrument payloads:


- Earth-pointed “business end” of GOES

- Highly stable, precision pointed platform

- Dynamically isolated from the rest of the spacecraft

- Supports operation of the ABI and GLM


- Utilizes a Sun Pointing Platform (SPP) housed on the solar array yoke

- The SPP provides a stable platform that tracks the seasonal and daily movement of the sun relative to the spacecraft

- Supports operation of the SUVI and EXIS


- SEISS and the Magnetometer provide localized measurements of particles and fields in geosynchronous orbit

- Accommodation challenges include: a) a wide variance in Field-of-View (FOV) requirements for the SEISS sensors, and, b) a boom to provide relative magnetic isolation for the Magnetometer.


Instrument provider

Objectives and improvement

ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager)

Harris (formerly ITT Corporation, Ft Wayne, IN)

Hurricane track & intensity forecast

SUVI (Solar Ultra Violet Imager)

Lockheed-Martin Advanced Technology Corp (LM ATC), Palo Alto, CA

Power blackout forecasts due to solar flares

EXIS (Extreme Ultra Violet and X-ray Irradiance Sensor)

Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), Boulder, CO

Solar flare warnings for communications and navigation

GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mapper)

Lockheed-Martin Advanced Technology Corp (LM ATC), Palo Alto, CA

Thunderstorm & tornado warning lead time,
Aviation flight route planning

SEISS (Space Environmental In-Situ Suite)

Assurance Technology Corporation (ATC), Carlisle, MA

Energetic particle forecasts

MAG (Magnetometer)

Procured as part of the spacecraft contract, Lockheed Martin, Newtown, PA


Table 3: Overview of the GOES-R sensor complement 88) 89)

ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager):

ABI is the next-generation (3rd) multispectral imager, a 2-axis scanning radiometric imager, intended to begin a new era in US environmental remote sensing with greatly improved capabilities and features (more spectral bands, faster imaging cycles, and higher spatial resolution than the current imager generation of GOES-N to -P). The ABI instrument is a significant advancement over current imager generation.

The overall objectives of ABI are to provide high-resolution imagery and radiometric information of the Earth's surface, the atmosphere and the cloud cover (measurement of the emitted and solar reflected radiance simultaneously in all spectral channels). Data availability, radiometric quality, simultaneous data collection, coverage rates, scan flexibility, and minimizing data loss due to the sun, are prime requirements of the ABI system. 90) 91) 92) 93) 94) 95) 96)

The instrument is providing 16 bands of multispectral data, with two bands in VIS (0.47 µm & 0.64 µm) and 14 bands in IR (0.86 µm to 13.3 µm). The spatial resolution is band-dependent, the IGFOV (Instantaneous Geometric Field of View) ranges from 0.5 km at nadir for broadband visible, 1.0 km for SWIR, and 2.0 km for MWIR and TIR data. The instrument features three “imaging sectors” with a simultaneous observation capability, referred to as: FD (Full Disk), CONUS, and Mesoscale. Full Disk includes the synoptic Earth view from GEO. The CONUS (Contiguous USA) sector covers a target area of 5000 km x 3000 km; the Mesoscale sector covers a nominal region of 1000 km x 1000 km (at nadir projection). 97)

ABI has two imaging modes, namely Mode 3 and Mode 4. Mode 3 imaging can provide 1 FD image, 3 CONUS and 30 Mesoscale images, every 15 minutes. Mode 4 can provide 30 Mesoscale images every 15 minutes as well as a Full Disk every 5 minutes.

The following four requirements of the NWS (National Weather Service) are considered with highest priority: 98)

1) Continuous instrument operation capability including the eclipse phases at the vernal equinoxes of the GEO orbit

2) Simultaneous observation capability for the modes “full-disk” and “CONUS” (Contiguous USA).

3) Improvement of the temporal instrument imagery resolutions.

- Full-disk Earth observation within 15 minutes

- CONUS, or the equivalent of a nadir-viewed rectangle (3000 km x 500 km) every 5 minutes (goal of 1 minute)

- Imagery of minimum size 1000 km x 1000 km (nadir) every 30 seconds

- A capability must exist to observe concurrently the CONUS and full-disk imagery along with all other imaging activities, such as space locks, blackbody calibrations, and star observations

4) Improvement of the spatial resolution of the imagery. The current GOES Imager spatial resolution (1 km in VIS and 4 km in IR) must be doubled for ABI. The intent is to allow for better identification and tracking of cloud and moisture signatures.

The band selection has been optimized to meet all cloud, moisture, and surface observation requirements. The phenomena observed and the various applications are:

• VIS band (0.64 µm): Daytime cloud imaging, snow and ice cover, severe weather onset detection, low-level cloud drift winds, fog, smoke, volcanic ash, flash flood analysis, hurricane analysis, winter storm analysis

• SWIR band (1.6 µm): Daytime cloud/snow/ice discrimination, total cloud cover, aviation weather analysis for icing, smoke from low-burn-rate fires

• MWIR band (3.9 µm): Fog and low-cloud discrimination at night, fire identification, volcanic eruption and ash, daytime reflectivity for snow/ice

• MWIR band (7.0 µm): Middle-tropospheric water vapor tracking, jet stream identification, hurricane track forecasting, mid-latitude storm forecasting, severe weather analysis

• TIR band (11.2 µm): Continuous day/night cloud analysis for many general forecasting applications, precipitation estimates, severe weather analysis and prediction, cloud drift winds, hurricane strength and track analysis, cloud top heights, volcanic ash, winter storms, cloud phase/particle size (in mid-band products)

• TIR band (12.3 µm): Continuous cloud monitoring for numerous applications, low-level moisture, volcanic ash trajectories, cloud particle size (in mid-band products)

• TIR band (13.3 µm): Cloud top height assignments for cloud-drift winds, cloud products for ASOS supplement, tropopause delineation, cloud opacity.

Application spectrum of the five additional bands.

• VIS band (0.47 µm): This band is used for aerosol detection and visibility estimation

• VIS band (0.86 µm): This band provides synergy with AVHRR/3 band 2. The band is used for determining vegetation amount, aerosols and ocean/land studies.

• SWIR band (1.378 µm): This band is similar to a MODIS band. It does not see into the lower troposphere due to water vapor sensitivity, thus it provides excellent daytime sensitivity to very thin cirrus.

• TIR band (8.5 µm): This band permits the detection of volcanic cloud with sulfuric acid aerosols, thin cirrus in conjunction with 11 µm band and determination of cloud microphysical properties with the 11.2 µm and 12.3 µm bands. This includes a more accurate delineation of ice from water clouds during day or night

• TIR band (10.3 µm): The band permits the determination of microphysical properties of clouds with the 11.2 and 12.3 µm bands. This includes a more accurate determination of cloud particle size during the day or night.

In May 2001, NASA awarded formulation phase contracts to three companies: ITT Industries' Aerospace/Communications Division, Fort Wayne, IN; BATC (Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.) of Boulder, CO; and Raytheon SBRS (Santa Barbara Remote Sensing), Goleta, CA. Under terms of the contracts, each company developed detailed engineering plans for the future instrument. In Sept. 2004, NASA on behalf of NOAA has selected ITT Industries to design and develop the ABI instrument.

Note: In 2011, the ITT Corporation split into three companies: ITT, Xylem, and ITT Exelis. The ABI instrument was developed at ITT Exelis in Fort Wayne, IN.


2nd generation GOES Imager


No of spectral bands



Data rate

2.6 Mbit/s

75 Mbit/s

Spatial resolution:
0.64 µm (VIS)
Other VNIR bands < 2 µm
Bands > 2 µm

~ 1 km
4 km

0.5 km
1.0 km
2.0 km

Time for full disk scan

26 minutes

15 or 5 minutes

Absolute INR (Image Navigation and Registration)

54 µrad

21 µrad (EW), 21 µrad (NS)

Registration between images (15 minutes)

36 µrad

16 µrad (0.5, 1.0 km)
21 µrad (2.0 km)

Cross-channel image co-registration

50 µrad (VIS to IR)
28 µrad (IR to IR)

6.3 µrad (0.5, 1.0 to2 km)
5.2 µrad (0.5, 1.0 to1 km)

VIS (reflective bands) calibration



Table 4: Key performance parameter comparison of 2nd and 3rd generation imagers (Ref. 102)



Spatial resolution

VIS (0.64 µm)
Other VNIR bands
All other bands (> 2 µm)

0.5 km (14 µrad IGFOV)
1 km (28 µrad IGFOV)
2 km (56 µrad IGFOV)

Spatial coverage

Full disk
CONUS (3000 km x 5000 km)
Mesoscale (1000 km x 1000 km)

4 per hour (every 15 min one image)
12 per hour
Every 30 s, may impact CONUS or full disk

Operation during eclipse


Data timelines (when scanning is complete)

CONUS: <1 minute Full disk: <6 minutes


Within 5 s for all bands at any FOV Within 30 s for any adjacent (n/S) pixels Within 15 s for any adjacent (E/W) pixels

Number of spectral bands

8 (threshold), 12 (goal) Star sensing capability required

Spectral bands (µm), 8 bands at minimum

0.64±0.05, 1.61±0.03; 3.9±0.1; 6.15±0.45; 7.0±0.2; 10.7±0.5; 12.0±0.5; 13.3±0.3

Spectral bands (µm), goal of four additional bands

0.86±0.05, 1.375±0.015, 8.5±0.2, 10.35±0.25


<1.0 km (28 µrad)

Registration within frame

<1 km (28 µrad)

Line-to-line registration

<25 km (7 µrad)

Registration image to image, VIS, IR

<0.75 km (<21 µrad), <1.0 km (<28 µrad)

Band-to-band co-registration, VIS-IR, IR-IR

<1.0 km (<28 µrad), <15% of FOV

On-orbit calibration

VIS, IR (goal)

Pre-launch to ±5%, On-board to ±3% 0.2 K repeatability, 1.0 K absolute accuracy

IR band linearity


Total instrument mass, power, volume

<125 kg, <256 W, <0.8 m3


Ground storage On-orbit storage Mean mission life Design life

2 years 2 years 8.4 Years 10 years

Table 5: Requirements overview for the ABI instrument

Band No

FWHM wavelength range (µm)

Center wavelength (µm)

Nominal IGFOV (km)

Prime measurement objectives and use of sample data

Instrument heritage





Daytime aerosol over land, coastal water mapping






Daytime clouds fog, insolation, winds

Current GOES imager/sounder





Daytime vegetation/burn scar and aerosols over water, winds

VIIRS, spectrally modified AVHRR/3





Daytime cirrus cloud






Daytime cloud-top phase and particle size, snow

VIIRS, spectrally modified AVHRR/3





Daytime land/cloud properties, particle size, vegetation, snow

VIIRS, similar to MODIS





Surface and cloud, fog at night, fire, winds

Current GOES imager





High-level atmospheric water vapor, winds, rainfall

Current GOES imager





Mid-level atmospheric water vapor, winds, rainfall

Current GOES imager





Lower-level water vapor, winds and SO2

Spectrally modified current sounder





Total water for stability, cloud phase, dust, SO2, rainfall

MAS (MODIS Airborne Simulator)





Total ozone, turbulence, winds

Spectrally modified current sounder





Surface and cloud






Imagery, SST, clouds, rainfall

Current GOES sounder





Total water, ash, SST

Current GOES sounder





Air temperature, cloud heights and amounts

Current GOES sounder/GOES-12 + imager

Table 6: Overview of the spectral band allocation for the ABI instrument


Figure 45: Schematic view of the ABI instrument (image credit: ITT) 99)

Support mode

FOV (Field of View)

0.5 km resolution

1 km resolution

2 km resolution

Full disk diameter


22141 pixels

11070 pixels

5535 pixels

CONUS height


6000 pixels

3000 pixels

1500 pixels

CONUS width


10000 pixels

5000 pixels

2500 pixels

Meso height/width


2000 pixels

1000 pixels

500 pixels

Table 7: Approximate number of ABI pixels for various support modes (Ref. 92)

ABI cryocooler: NGAS (Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems) has developed and tested a two-stage pulse tube (PT) cooler of JAMI (Japanese Advanced Meteorological Imager) heritage flown on the Japanese MTSAT-1R mission (launch Feb. 26, 2005). The ABI cooler system incorporates an integral HEC (High Efficiency Cryocooler) pulse tube cooler and a remote coaxial cold head. The two-stage cold head was designed to provide large cooling power at 53 K and 183 K, simultaneously. 100) 101)

NGAS evolved the design from on-orbit pulse tube cooler designs that the company has built and launched over the past decade. No failures have been experienced on any of these coolers on the seven satellite systems launched to date; some of these coolers are now approaching 11 years of failure-free operation.

The PFM (Proto-Flight Module) cooler system for ABI consists of a linear pulse tube cold head that is integral to the compressor assembly and a coaxial remote pulse tube cold head; the two cold head design affords a means of cooling a detector array to its operational temperature while remotely cooling optical elements (to reduce effects of radiation on imager performance) and a second detector array. The two cooler systems are referred to as TDU (Thermo-Dynamic Units); in addition, there are two associated CCE (Cooler Control Electronics) units that provide power and control functions to the TDUs.


Figure 46: Illustration of the PFM TDU (image credit: NGAS)


Figure 47: The CCE (Cooler Control Electronics) device (image credit: NGAS)

The TDU has a size of 370 mm x 350 mm x 130 mm (width x depth x height) with a mass of 5.5 kg. The size of CCE is 235 mm x 205 mm x 85 mm (width x depth x height) with a mass of 3.8 kg. The requirements on the cooler call for: 2.27 W of cooling at 53.0 K and 5.14 W of cooling at 183.1 K.

INR (Image Navigation and Registration):

Since ABI uses multiple focal plane modules for the channels of detector grids, the channel-to-channel registration can present a challenge if relative motion occurs from one focal plane module to another. This is especially the case given the ABI channel-to-channel registration requirements are at sub-pixel levels. 102)

INR on the current GOES program preceding GOES-R (2nd generation) employs image motion compensation (IMC) on board the spacecraft/imager to assure the image line of sight is accurately pointed to desired locations on the Earth scene. Once the image data are processed on ground, a series of manual landmarking registration techniques are applied to the image to improve the location of features in the image relative to known landmarks within the scene. The landmarking updates are also used to update the IMC coefficients for the following day’s operation.

ABI INR relies on a ground-based real time image navigation process to achieve increased knowledge accuracy using precise encoder readings and star image data. During an Earth scene collection, the instrument uses attitude information provided by the spacecraft to compensate for the spacecraft’s attitude motion; however the precise image navigation and registration is achieved through ground processing to determine where the image data were actually collected relative to the fixed grid scene.

ABI collects scene image data as well as star measurements to maintain line of sight knowledge. Image navigation uses ground processing algorithms to decompress, calibrate and navigate the image samples from the focal plane module detectors. The navigated samples are then re-sampled using a 4 x 4 sample kernel to form the 14 µrad pixels which form the Earth disk image.

Image collection performance for the ABI is governed by the attitude knowledge provided by the spacecraft, the control accuracy of the pointing servo control for the instrument and the diurnal line of sight variation. Per the GOES-R GIRD (General Interface Requirements Document), the spacecraft provides the following information to allow the instrument to collect scenes:

- Quaternion: ~ 100 µrad uncertainty (sampled at 1 Hz)

- Attitude rate measurements: < 20 µrad drift over 15 minutes (sampled at 100 Hz)

- Spacecraft position: 35 m in-track, 35 m cross-track and 70 m radial over 15 minutes (sampled at 1 Hz)

- Spacecraft velocity: < 6 cm/sec uncertainty per axis (sampled at 1 Hz).

Reference frame definitions: Image navigation and registration uses data and measurements defined in a number of different coordinate frames. The primary reference frame is J2000 which is the inertial frame in which the star catalog coordinates are defined. Star coordinates are updated to a True of date frame and then to an EFC (Earth Centered Fixed) coordinate frame with the X-axis oriented to the station longitude for GOES. Orbit determination and body axis attitude reporting are done relative to a frame defined by the velocity vector and nadir referred to as to ORF (Orbit Reference Frame). The ABI instrument alignment is referenced to a frame relative to the spacecraft body axis frame referred to as the IMF (Instrument Mounting Frame) and line of sight is referenced to a frame relative to the instrument mounting frame. ABI commanding and image navigation is defined relative to the Fixed Grid Frame defined as an ideal Geosynchronous orbit located at the GOES east or GOES west station longitude.


EW (3σ)

NS (3σ)

Navigation (Absolute location of any pixel)

±21 µrad

±21 µrad

Frame-to-Frame Registration: 0.47, 0.64, 0.865, and 1.61 µm channels.
Frame-to-frame registration error is the difference in navigation error for any given pixel in two consecutive images within the same channel.

±16 µrad

±16 µrad

Frame-to-Frame Registration: 1.378, 2.25, 3.9, 6.185, 6.95, 7.34, 8.5, 9.61, 10.35, 11.2, 12.3, and 13.3 µm channels

±21 µrad

±21 µrad

Within Frame Registration: Angular separation of any two pixels in a Frame

±21 µrad

±21 µrad

Swath-to-Swath Registration

± 5.2 µrad

± 5.2 µrad

Channel-to-Channel Registration: 2 km to 2 km, 1 km, 0.5 km (wavelength/detector dependent)

± 6.3 µrad

± 6.3 µrad

Channel-to-Channel Registration: 1 km to 1 km, 0.5 km (wavelength/detector dependent)

± 5.2 µrad

± 5.2 µrad

Table 8: GOES-R INR metric performance requirements


Figure 48: Reference frames used in the INR process (image credit: ITT)


Figure 49: ABI image navigation and registration process (image credit: ITT)

ABI's advanced design will provide users with twice the spatial resolution, six times the coverage rate, and more than three times the number of spectral channels compared to the current GOES Imagers. The operations flexibility permits consistent collection of Earth scenes, eliminating time gaps in coverage by the need to prioritize some areas over others. These improvements will allow tomorrow’s meteorologists and climatologists to significantly improve the accuracy of their products, both in forecasting and nowcasting. 103)


Figure 50: Photo of the ABI instrument (image credit: ITT) 104)

ABI Images: 105)

The ABI (Advanced Baseline Imager) will provide a paradigm shift in the United States’ geostationary weather imaging over the current GOES Imager:

• More than three times the channels (16 vs. 5)

• Four times the number of pixels (0.5, 1, and 2 km vs. 1 and 4 km)

• More than five times the temporal resolution (5 minute Full Disk vs. 26 minutes)

However, its most unique feature is its operational flexibility - one instrument seamlessly interleaving the collection of multiple images of different sizes, locations, and repetition intervals plus the ability to collect scan data in any direction. This enables the high temporal resolution imaging of severe weather events (hurricanes, typhoons, tornados, etc.) or vicarious calibration observations (e.g., moon, deserts, etc.) without interrupting Full Earth Disk and regional image collections.

ABI’s ability to interleave image collections ensures all regions will be imaged far more frequently than with the current imagers. Hence, ABI’s image collections can be simplified to just three standard images:

• Full Disk

• CONUS Continental United States (`lower 48 states')

• Mesoscale (aka meso)

The sizes of these images are provided in Table 9 and their locations are provided in Table 10. Note that all images are defined in radians. Degrees and kilometer equivalents are provided for convenience. (The size in kilometers is based on the conversion factor of 28 µrad/km.) This information is also provided visually in Figure 51, Figure 52, and Figure 53.

Mesoscale images can be located anywhere within the ABI FOR (Field of Regard). In Figure 6 some possible locations are shown (nadir, tornado in the mid-West, hurricane off the coast of Florida, lunar observation).

ABI Image


Size (degrees)

Size (radians)

km at nadir







Full Disk


17.4º diameter









3000 km

5000 km







1000 km

1000 km

Table 9: Sizes of the ABI operational images

ABI Image

Satellite Longitude

Center Offset

Center Location

NS (rad)

EW (rad)



Full Disk




75º W



30.083º N

87.097º W


137º W



29.967º N

137.000º W


89.5º W



29.294º N

91.406º W

Mesoscale (meso)


Within 10º of nadir

Table 10: Locations of the ABI operational images


Figure 51: ABI Full Disk Images for GOES-R West and East (image credit: Harris Corp.)


Figure 52: ABI CONUS Images for GOES-R West, Central, and East (image credit: Harris Corp.)


Figure 53: ABI Mesoscale Images – Representative Locations Shown (image credit: Harris Corp.)

Note that the size of a “Full Disk” image varies by payload:

• GOES-R ABI: 17.4 degree diameter circle (Earth only)

• Himawari AHI: 17.8 degree diameter circle (Earth plus limb and space)

• GEO-KOMPSAT-2A AMI: 17.8 degree diameter circle (Earth plus limb and space)

• MTG FCI: 17.7 degree diameter circle (Earth plus limb)

ABI Timelines:

An ABI scene definition defines the scan patterns needed to collect a desired image. Each scene is a collection of individual swaths. The ABI timeline defines when to collect each swath of each scene.

ABI currently has two operational timelines, created by Harris based on our customer’s requirements:

1) Continuous Full Disk (CFD)

• Timeline: ABI Scan Mode 4

• Images collected:

- 5-minute Full Disk images

2) Flex Mode (aka Storm Watch)

• Timeline: ABI Scan Mode 3

• Images collected (seamlessly interleaved):

- 30-second Mesoscale

- 5-minute CONUS

- 15-minute Full Disk

All operational ABI timelines include observations for radiometric and geometric calibration. All timelines start with a space look and blackbody observation and collect a space look at least every 30 seconds for radiometric calibration. Hence, blackbody observations occur at least every 15 minutes, far more frequently than required to meet the IR calibration accuracy requirements. All operational ABI timelines include visible stars observations on average at least every 100 s and IR stars observations on average at least every 300 s for navigation (i.e., geometric calibration).

Because the gain of the visible and near IR (VNIR) channels change far slower than the MWIR and LWIR channels, observations of the solar calibration target are required far less frequently than blackbody observations. Hence, observations of the solar calibration target are not included in the operational timelines. They are collected using a custom timeline, which is run approximately every two weeks at the start of the operational mission and less frequently later in the mission.

Custom scenes and timelines can be defined and uploaded at any time during the mission life. One such custom timeline has already been defined by Harris and is loaded in the ABI EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory):

Super Flex Mode

• Timeline: ABI Scan Mode 6

• Images collected:

- 30-second Mesoscale

- 5-minute CONUS

- 10-minute Full Disk

This is not currently an operational timeline. However, it is expected to become an operational timeline once the GOES-R ground system parameters are updated to include processing and distribution of Full Disk image products on 10-minute intervals (in addition to the current 5 and 15 minute intervals) and the users’ systems have been updated to receive Full Disk products on 10-minute intervals.

ABI Images

Timeline Repetition Intervals (minutes)

Scan Mode 4 (Continuous Full Disk)

Scan Mode 3 (Flex Mode)

Scan Mode 6 (Super Flex Mode)

Full Disk







Mesoscale #1





Mesoscale #2



Table 11: Images collected by the baseline ABI timelines

In the Scan Mode 3 and 6 timelines, a mesoscale image is collected every 30 seconds. However, ABI provides the user the option to define two different mesoscale image locations (Meso 1 and Meso 2) and collect both of them at 1 minute intervals. This means two severe weather events can be monitored simultaneously. — This is not an operational requirement for ABI. It is an enhancement provided by Harris to ensure our customers have the flexibility to address more than just the baseline scenarios.

ABI’s interleaved image collection approach can be easily seen in the “time-timeiii” diagram for the Scan Mode 3 Timeline provided in Figure 54. This diagram takes the 900 second timeline, breaks it into 30-second intervals and stacks them from top to bottom in sequential order. It is “read” chronologically just like reading a paragraph – left to right from the top to the bottom.

• This diagram shows how the mesoscale images are collected at precisely 30 second intervals and the CONUS images are at precisely 5-minute (300-second) intervals.

- When two mesoscale images are defined, their collections alternate, so there is no change in the timing of the timeline execution.

• The start of each Full Disk swath collection is staggered so the time interval across the swath boundary is precisely 30 seconds for all points.

• Nadir stares are added in time periods where there are no operational images to collect (no data is downlinked during nadir stares).

• Note that every Full Disk swath includes an autonomous space look observation. In time intervals where no Full Disk swaths are collected, explicit space look observations are performed.


Figure 54: “Time-Time” diagram for ABI Scan Mode 3 timeline (image credit: Harris Corp.)

SUVI (Solar Ultra Violet Imager):

SUVI is a sun-pointed instrument, a normal-incidence multilayer-coated telescope, with the overall objective to provide information on solar activity and the effects of the sun on the Earth and the near-earth space environment. The SUVI provides narrowband imaging in the soft X-ray to EUV wavelength range (9.4 nm - 30.4 nm) at a high cadence (up to 3 images/s). SUVI will monitor the entire dynamic range of solar X-ray features including coronal holes and solar flares and will provide data regarding the rapidly changing conditions is the Sun’s atmosphere. These data are used for geomagnetic storm forecasts and for observations of solar energetic particle events related to flares. SUVI will continue the mission performed by the current GOES-M/P series SXI (Solar X-ray Imager) instrument. 106) 107)

In Sept. 2007, NASA awarded to LM ATC a contract to build the SUVI instrument. 108) In December 2009, SUVI has met all the requirements of a CDR (Critical Design Review). 109)


Figure 55: Photo of the SUVI instrument assembly (image credit: LM ATC)

Status of SUVI:

- In November 2012, the Lockheed Martin team met the requirements of a Pre-Environmental Review (PER). The Lockheed Martin SUVI instrument has met all requirements of the PER.

- The next major review will be the Pre-Ship or Pre-Storage Review in May 2013. The team is on plan for instrument delivery in Oct. 2013 to the Lockheed Martin Space Systems facility in Denver for integration with the spacecraft. 110)

- Dec. 2013: A Lockheed Martin team has completed the SUVI (Solar Ultraviolet Imager) instrument. The instrument will be delivered in 2014 for integration with the first GOES-R spacecraft at Lockheed Martin's Space Systems facility in Denver. 111)

- April 2014: Lockheed Martin has delivered the SUVI instrument for GOES-R integration. 112)

EXIS (Extreme Ultra Violet and X-ray Irradiance Sensor):

EXIS contains two full disk instruments, the EUVS (EUV Sensor) and the XRS (X-Ray Sensor). The EUVS is a full disk detector measuring EUV flux in the 5 - 127 nm range as compared to the 10 – 126 nm range for GOES-N. EUV radiation plays a key role in heating the thermosphere and creating the ionosphere. The EXIS instrument has been designed and developed at LASP (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO (PI: Frank Eparvier). 113) 114)

NOAA requires the realtime monitoring of the solar irradiance variability that controls the variability of the terrestrial upper atmosphere (ionosphere and thermosphere). 115)

• The EUVS device monitors solar variations that directly affect satellite drag/tracking and ionospheric changes, which impact communications and navigation operations. This information is critical to understanding the outer layers of the Earth’s atmosphere.

- Through a combination of measurements and modeling, EUVS determines the solar EUV spectral irradiance in the 5 -127 nm range.

- Pre-GOES-R EUVS: Transmission grating spectrographs covering five broad bandpasses.

- EUVS for GOES-R: Three reflection grating spectrographs measuring specific solar emission lines from which fullspectrum is reconstructed with a model.

• The XRS instrument monitors solar flares that can disrupt communications and degrade navigational accuracy, affecting satellites, astronauts, high latitude airline passengers, and power grid performance.

- XRS measures the solar soft x-ray irradiance in two bandpasses at 0.05-0.4 nm and 0.1-0.8 nm

- Pre-GOES-R XRS: Ionization chamber instruments with limited dynamic range (solar min unresolved in noise and bright flares clipped)

- XRS for GOES-R: Solid state detectors that capture full dynamic range of solar variability.






Spectral range

0.05 - 0.8 nm

0.05 - 0.8 nm

Dynamic range

10-9 - 10-3 W/m2

10-9 - 10-3 W/m2

SNR (Signal/Noice Ratio)

1:1 over 10 minute avearge

> 30:1 over 10 minute average

Data product accuracy

≤20% over mission life

14% over mission life


≤3 s

3 s


Specral range

5 - 127 nm

5 - 127 nm (data product)

Spectral resulution

From 5-35 nm: 10 nm bins
From 35-115 nm: 40 nm bins
Lyman-α (121.6 nm): 10 nm (FWHM)

5-115 nm; 5 nm bins

117-127 nm; 10 nm bin


1:1 over 10 minute avearge

> 20:1 over 10 minute average

Data product accuracy

≤20% over mission life

18% over mission life


≤30 s

27 s

Table 12: Key measurement requirements of EXIS


Figure 56: Illustration of the EXIS instrument (image credit: LASP, NOAA) 116)

EXIS subsystems

EUVS (Extreme Ultraviolet Sensor)
XRS (X-Ray Sensor)
EXEB (EUVS/XRS Electrical Box)
SPS (Sun Positioning Sensor)

Instrument mass, power

30 kg, 40 W

Data rates

7.2 kbit/s (X-band), 0.9 kbit/s (L-band)

Instrument envelope

76 cm x 30 cm x 37 cm

Thermal control

Active control , 2 zones

Table 13: EXIS instrument parameters

XRS monitors solar flares and helps predict solar proton events that can penetrate Earth’s magnetic field. The XRS is important in monitoring X-ray input into the Earth's upper atmosphere and alerts scientists to X-ray flares that are strong enough to cause radio blackouts and aide in space weather predictions (this is different from the SUVI instrument which monitors solar flares via images on the X-ray spectrum). EXIS will provide more information on solar flares and include a more complete and detailed report of solar variability than is currently available.

The EUVS will measure changes in the solar extreme ultraviolet irradiance which drive upper atmospheric variability on all time scales. EUV radiation has major impacts on the ionosphere. An excess can result in radio blackouts of terrestrial high frequency communications at low latitudes. EUV flares also deposit large amounts of energy in Earth’s upper atmosphere (thermosphere) causing it to expand into Low Earth Orbiting satellites, causing increased atmospheric drag and reduce the lifetime of satellites by degrading items such as solar panels.

GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mapper):

GLM is also referred to as LMS (Lightning Mapper Sensor). The GLM mission consists of an optical imaging instrument of GHCC (Global Hydrology and Climate Center) at NASA/MSFC (Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL). The prime objective is to measure from GEO the total lightning activity on a continuous basis (under both day and nighttime conditions) over the Americas (North and South) and portions of the adjoining oceans. The GLM will provide continuous measurements of lightning and ice-phase precipitation. These measurements will be used to:

- Diagnose and forecast the transient evolution of severe storm events, such as tornadoes, microbursts, hail storms and flash floods

- Improve mesoscale model forecasts and satellite-based retrievals of convective properties

- Improve forecast models through rapid-update assimilation of lightning data

- Examine the seasonal to interannual variability of storms and to develop a lightning climatology.

GLM permits the study of the electrosphere over dimensions ranging from the Earth's radius down to individual thunderstorms. The instrument is capable of detecting all types of lightning phenomena at a nearly uniform coverage (detection of storm formulation and severity). Near real-time data transmission to MSFC is required for processing and quality assurance and redistribution of the data within 1 minute of reception. 117) 118) 119) 120)

Imager type

Staring CCD array imager with 1372 x 1300 pixels, pixel size (variable) 30 x 30 µm

Spectral wavelength

777.4 nm (filter center wavelength, single bandpass)

Lens focal length, lens f number

134 mm, 1.2

Lens FOV


Ground sample distance

8-14 km


< 4.0 J m-2 sr-1 → A lightning event is identified whenever the selected signal difference threshold is exceeded

Flash efficiency


Event rate

1 x 10 -5 s-1

SNR, dynamic range

6, > 100

Detection efficiency, false alarm rate

> 90% of total events, <5% of total events

Measurement accuracy

Location: 1 pixel; intensity: 10%; time tag at frame rate

Temporal resolution

2 ms frame rate (500 frames/s)

Instrument mass, power

125 kg, 290 W

Data downlink communication

Data rate: 7.7 Mbit/s; modulation: PCM; quantization = 14 bit

Table 14: Specification of the GLM instrument

In Sept. 2007, a NASA/NOAA contract was awarded to LM ATC (Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Corporation) of Palo Alto, CA to build the GLM instrument. 121)

The GLM instrument consists of a staring imager optimized to detect and locate lightning. The major subsystems of the instrument are: an imaging system, a focal plane assembly, real-time event processors, a formatter, power supply, and interface electronics. The imaging subsystem is a fast f/1.2 telescope with a 12 cm aperture diameter and a 1 nm bandwidth interference filter. A broadband blocking filter is placed on the front surface of the filter substrate to maximize the effectiveness of the narrowband filter.

GLM is a camera system that can be described in the usual terms of imaging systems (resolution, spectral response, distortion, noise, clock rates, bit depth, etc.), the science data output of the GLM instrument consists primarily of events, not images. To understand how GLM detects lightning, it helps to think of it as an event detector, and set aside for a moment our usual thoughts about cameras.


Figure 57: Photo of the GLM engineering unit (image credit: GHCC, NOAA)

Event filtering approaches: The daytime lightning signals tend to be buried in the background noise; hence, special techniques are implemented to maximize the lightning signal relative to this background noise.

• Spatial filtering is used which matches the IFOV of each detector element in the GLM focal plane array to the typical cloud-top area illuminated by a lightning stroke (i.e., in the order of about 10 km). This results in an optimal sampling of the lightning scene relative to the background illumination.

• Spectral filtering is obtained by using a narrowband interference filter centered on a strong optical emission line (e.g., OI at 777.4 nm) in the lightning spectrum. This method further maximizes the lightning signal relative to the reflected daylight background.

• GLM employs temporal filtering which takes advantage of the difference in lightning pulse duration which is on the order of 400 µs versus the background illumination which tends to be constant on the time scale of seconds. In an integrating sensor, such as GLM, the integration time specifies how long a particular pixel accumulates charge between readouts. The lightning SNR improves as the integration period approaches the pulse duration. An integration time of 2 ms (technological limit) is used to minimize pulse splitting and maximize lightning detectability.

• Since the ratio of the background illumination to the lightning signal often exceeds 100 to 1 at the focal plane, a fourth technique, a modified frame-to-frame background subtraction is implemented to remove the slowly varying background signal from the raw data coming off the GLM focal plane. Each real-time event processor generates an estimate of the background scene imaged at each pixel of its section of the focal plane array. This background scene is updated during each frame readout sequence and, at the same time, the background signal is compared with the off-the-focal-plane signal on a pixel-by-pixel basis. When the difference between these signals exceeds a selected threshold, the signal is identified as a lightning event and an event processing sequence is initiated.

Principle of event detection: As a digital image processing system, GLM is designed to detect any positive change in the image that exceeds a selected detection threshold. This detection process is performed on a pixel-by-pixel basis in the RTEP (Real Time Event Processor) by comparing each successive value of the pixel (sampled at 500 Hz in the incoming digital video stream) to a stored background value that represents the recent history of that pixel. The background value is computed by an exponential moving average with an adjustable time constant k (Ref. 122).

The large data rate of about 5 Gbit/s is read out from the focal plane of GLM into several RTEPs for event detection and data compression. Each RTEP detects weak lightning flashes from the intense but slowly evolving background. The RTEP continuously averages the output from the focal plane over a number frames on a pixel-by-pixel basis to generate a background estimate. It then subtracts the average background estimate of each pixel from the current signal of the corresponding pixel. The subtracted signal consists of shot noise fluctuating about zero with occasional peaks due to lightning events. When a peak exceeds the level of a variable threshold, it triggers comparator circuits and is processed by the rest of the electronics as a lightning event.

An event is a 64-bit data structure describing the identity of the pixel, the camera frame (i.e. time) in which it occurred, its intensity with respect to the background, and the value of the background itself. Performing on-board image processing in the RTEPs, and reporting changes in the Earth scene by exception only (when an event is triggered) reduces the downlink data bandwidth of the instrument to a reasonable level, from 14 bit/pixel x (1372 x 1300) pixels/frame x 500 frames/s = 12.5 Gbit/s of raw video data to just ~6 Mbit/s of processed event data.

Operating at the Limits of Noise: The intensity of lightning pulses, like many phenomena in nature, approximately follows a power law. There are relatively fewer bright and easily detectable events, and a “long tail” of dim events that eventually get drowned out by instrument noise. To achieve high detection efficiency, GLM must reach as far into this long tail as possible by operating with the lowest-possible detection threshold. The challenge of lightning event detection is then to lower the detection threshold so low that it starts flirting with instrument noise, where random excursions in the value of a pixel can trigger a so-called “false” event that does not correspond to an optical pulse.

Architectural drivers: 122)

The GLM instrument, as built, is the result of years of trade-off studies and prototype testing that refined the present design. The architecture of GLM was driven by a number of important considerations, each of them with the common goal of maximizing lightning detection efficiency. The following list summarizes these considerations.

Patented Variable Pixel Pitch: The GLM CCD was designed such that the GSD (Ground Sample Distance), i.e. the projected area of each pixel on the Earth’s surface, is approximately constant with a target value of 8 km matched to the typical size of a storm cell. When following the development of severe thunderstorms it is important to track the lightning flash rate of individual storm cells, and therefore constant ground sample distance over the Earth is necessary.

RTEP (Real Time Event Processor) adjustability: A deliberate choice was made to separate imaging from event detection, by functionally partitioning the instrument into a Sensor Unit that performs digital video imaging and an Electronics Unit that performs digital signal processing. This partitioning approach, while it does cost mass and power, allows digital event detection algorithms and parameters to be more flexibly developed and optimized to operate reliably at the limits of instrument noise.

In the RTEP, it is critically important to be able to select the threshold on a pixel-by-pixel basis. The following simulated example provides further insight into the need for controlling TNR (Threshold-to-Noise Ratio)) in each pixel. Figure 58 shows a typical cloud scene near the terminator, simulated as GLM would see it, where grazing illumination creates a lot of contrast in the cloud tops.


Figure 58: Small portion of cloud scene, as viewed by GLM (image credit: Lockheed Martin STAR Labs)

Because shot noise is of roughly the same order as electronics noise, pixels containing sunlit cloud tops will have more total noise than adjacent pixels containing shaded cloud tops. The total noise in each pixel (1σ, in units of DN) is simulated in Figure 59; note that it varies by several counts over small spatial scales.


Figure 59: Total noise, 1σ (DN), image credit: Lockheed Martin STAR Labs

If one were to apply a single global detection threshold to this entire 90 x 90 pixel scene, selected such that the false event rate stayed below 100 events/s over this portion of the cloud scene, the global threshold would need to be 25 counts and the TNR would vary widely across the scene:


Figure 60: Threshold-to-noise ratio achieved by selecting a single detection threshold of 25 (image credit: Lockheed Martin STAR Labs)

As a result, the false event rate is dominated by the brightly sunlit pixels, and detection efficiency suffers in pixels with shaded cloud tops (yellow, orange and red). - GLM does not use a global threshold in recognition of the fact that shot noise varies significantly from pixel to pixel due to the highly variable illumination of cloud tops. The event detection threshold is selected by the RTEP for each individual pixel from a 32-element lookup table indexed by the top five bits of the background in that pixel. Instead of applying a global threshold of 25, a different threshold value is selected for each pixel as shown in Figure 61. In this example, the threshold values were determined by the same criterion to keep the false event rate less than 100 events/sec.


Figure 61: Detection thresholds selected on a pixel-by-pixel basis (image credit: Lockheed Martin STAR Labs)

Note how a higher threshold is applied to brightly sunlit pixels, and a threshold less than 25 is applied to shaded pixels, enhancing detection efficiency in all the pixels shaded blue. In this example the false event rate is evenly distributed across this scene, as revealed by the uniformity of the corresponding TNR map, obtained simply by dividing the threshold by the total noise (Figure 62):


Figure 62: Threshold-to-noise ratio when detection threshold is selected on a pixel-by-pixel basis (image credit: Lockheed Martin STAR Labs)

By controlling TNR on a pixel-by-pixel basis and preventing a few bright pixels from dominating the false event budget, GLM can maximize detection efficiency by lowering the threshold in each pixel to its optimal value, peering deeper into the noise and detecting the dimmest optical pulses in the long tail of the lightning intensity distribution. Threshold tables can be uploaded to the instrument and will be optimized during post-launch test.

Of course, detection thresholds are only one aspect of a robust RTEP design, and a number of other adjustable parameters are available to fine-tune the behavior of the background tracking. For example, RTEP settings can be adjusted to accommodate repeated events in the same pixel (to detect the continuing current events that often spark forest fires), to reduce spurious jitter events at contrast boundaries induced by minute disturbances in the instrument line of sight, or to mitigate the impact of stray light when entering and exiting eclipse. The GLM RTEP design benefits directly from years of on-orbit experience with the LIS (Lightning Imaging Sensor) flying on the TRMM satellite.

Narrow Band Filter: The true test of a lightning mapper is its ability to detect dim lightning events emanating from a bright, zenith-illuminated cloud top. Clouds are nearly Lambertian reflectors with an albedo that sometimes approaches unity, so a large amount of undesired reflected sun light is present in the vicinity of the oxygen triplet. The worst-case spectral radiance of the cloud background is estimated in Figure 63, for all seasonal and diurnal illumination conditions.

This background cloud radiance creates shot noise which can drown out dimmer lightning events. It is necessary to cut down the background signal using optical filters that have the narrowest feasible bandpass while still passing the majority of the lightning oxygen triplet. GLM contains three filters of increasingly narrow spectral width: a SRF (Solar Rejection Filter) at ~30 nm FWHM that performs the task of rejecting the bulk of out-of-band radiation, a SBF (Solar Blocking Filter) at ~3 nm FWHM, and the key NBF (Narrow Band Filter) at ~1 nm FWHM. Due to their large size and stringent spectral requirements, these filters pushed the boundaries of manufacturing capabilities.


Figure 63: Worst-case 100% albedo Lambertian cloud spectral radiance at 777 nm, with atmospheric loss (mW/sr/cm2/µm),image credit: Lockheed Martin STAR Labs

Frame Rate and CCD Well Depth: GLM detects the individual optical pulses caused by lightning, on top of a bright background of sunlit clouds. In order to detect these pulses with good signal to noise, the frame rate must be optimized. The average duration of a lightning optical pulse is shown in Figure 64.

The frame rate should be closely matched to the average duration of the pulse. If the frame rate is too low, then additional background is detected with no additional signal, lowering signal to noise. If the frame rate is too high, then the signal is split into adjacent frames, reducing signal to noise. The GLM frame rate is 500 Hz, well matched to the duration of the lightning optical pulses. The frame rate and the CCD well depth must also be matched. Lightning most often occurs in optically thick clouds, in the afternoon when the clouds are well illuminated by the Sun. The CCD well depth must be large enough to accommodate the expected background from bright clouds, at the frame rate matched to the pulse duration, and with the optical filters matched to the oxygen triplet emission line. The GLM CCD has a well depth of approximately 2 million electrons to be able to accommodate the bright background while leaving room to detect lightning events. The frame rate, CCD well depth, and optical filters work together to optimize the signal to noise ratio for detecting lightning optical pulses.


Figure 64: Typical lightning optical pulse profile (image credit: Lockheed Martin STAR Labs)

Coherency Filter: The GLM hardware is designed to detect events, including many events caused by noise, and sends all these events to the ground for further processing. The first step in the processing is to remove the non-lightning events from the data stream. The flashes are then identified by reviewing the remaining events. The ground processing algorithms include many filters designed to remove events not caused by lightning, including radiation hits and glint from Sun on the ocean. Most of the filters are based on work done on the LIS (Lightning Imaging Sensor). The most important filter is the coherency filter. This filter relies on the fact that true lightning events are coherent in time and space, whereas noise events are not. This is the filter that enables GLM to operate at the edge of the noise, sending many noise events to the ground and detecting fainter lightning events in the process.

As viewed from space, any given lightning flash will generate several to several tens of optical pulses. Flashes can be up to several seconds long, and contain multiple optical pulses detected in the same pixel or adjacent pixels. A noise event will not have this coherent behavior. Although many noise events may be triggered over the course of several seconds, they are unlikely to be in the same or adjacent pixels. The coherency filter calculates the probability that any given event is a noise event, based on the event intensity, the electronics noise, and the photon noise of the background. When another event occurs in this same pixel or an adjacent pixel, the filter calculates the probability that both of these events are noise events, based on the new event intensity, the instrument and photon noise, and the time elapsed between the two events. When two events have a sufficiently low probability of both being noise, the events are reported as lightning events. This probability threshold is adjustable to allow more or less stringent filtering of the data as desired by the user community.


The overall performance of GLM is measured in terms of the fraction of the lightning flashes that are detected and reported. We call this the detection efficiency. In order to do this calculation, one must know the characteristics of lightning flashes. For our truth data set,high-altitude airplane data is used which provides the distribution function of the energy density of the brightest pulse in a flash. The event detection thresholds of GLM is compared, converted into the energy density units using the instrument calibration data, to the distribution function of the brightest pulse in a flash. The threshold applied to a given pixel depends on the background in that pixel. An 80% cloud background albedo is assumed and the background of each pixel at a given time and illumination is calculated. The project can then determine which threshold will be selected for each pixel, and determine the detection efficiency of each pixel. Figure 65 shows an example of a predicted detection efficiency map.

The vertical banding visible in the areas east of the terminator (dark red) corresponds to a different detection threshold being selected, resulting in a step change in the detection efficiency. Areas on the sunlit limb (light blue) have the lowest detection efficiency under these illumination conditions. When averaged over 24 hours and over the entire field of view, GLM is expected to detect 80% of lightning flashes.


Figure 65: Calculated detection efficiency of each GLM pixel, in percent, at 4 PM local time as seen from GOES-East satellite (image credit: Lockheed Martin STAR Labs)

In conclusion, GLM will gather more spaceborne lightning data in the first few weeks of operations,than has been collected in the entire history of space flight. Hemispherical coverage combined with round-the-clock operation at 500 frames/s will enable near real-time reporting of lightning flashes, giving unprecedented insight into the energetics of severe weather.

GLM has the potential to reduce fuel consumption of the air transport network by providing near real-time lightning maps, augmenting traditional radar detection to optimize air traffic management around areas of convective weather.

Long-term trending of GLM lightning data will provide continuity with data sets from LIS (Lightning Imaging Sensor) flown on the TRMM satellite, and contribute to our understanding of decadal changes in the Earth’s climate.

Most importantly, GLM lightning data will be used in operational data products to forecast tornado activity with significantly greater warning time and reliability. Increased warning time and fewer false tornado warnings will save lives.

SEISS (Space Environmental In Situ Suite):

In Aug. 2006, NASA in coordination with NOAA awarded a contract to ATC (Assurance Technology Corporation) of Carlisle, MA to design and develop the SEISS package. 123) 124)

The SEISS instrument package monitors the near-Earth particle and electromagnetic environment in real-time. Monitoring of geomagnetically trapped electrons and protons; electrons, protons, and heavy ions of direct solar origin; and galactic background particles.

The SEISS package consists of the following instruments:

EHIS (Energetic Heavy Ion Sensor), was designed and developed at NHU (New Hampshire University). The objective of EHIS is to measure the proton, electron, and alpha particle fluxes at GEO. This includes particles trapped within Earth’s magnetosphere and particles arriving directly from the sun and cosmic rays which have been accelerated by electromagnetic fields in space. The information will be used to help scientists protect astronauts and high altitude aircraft from high levels of harmful ionizing radiation. The EHIS device incorporates a unique system design called ADIS (Angle Detecting Inclined Sensor).

MPS (Magnetospheric Particle Sensor). MPS is a three-axis vector magnetometer to measure the magnitude and direction of the Earth's ambient magnetic field in three orthogonal directions in an Earth referenced coordinate system. The magnetometer will provide a map of the space environment that controls charged particle dynamics in the outer region of the magnetosphere.

MPS-LO: The sensor measures electron and proton flux over an energy range of 30ev to 30kev. MPS-LO will be able to tell scientists the amount of charging by low energy electrons that the GOES-R spacecraft is undergoing. Spacecraft charging can cause ESD and arcing between two differently charged parts of the spacecraft. This discharge arc can cause serious and permanent damage to the hardware on board a spacecraft, which affects operation, navigation and interferes with measurements being taken.

MPS-HI: The sensor will monitor medium and high energy protons and electrons which can shorten the life of a satellite. High energy electrons are extremely damaging to spacecraft because they can penetrate and pass through objects which can cause dielectric breakdowns and result in discharge damage inside of equipment.

SGPS (Solar and Galactic Proton Sensor). The objective of SGPS is to measure the solar and galactic protons found in the Earth's magnetosphere. The data provided by SGPS will assist the Space Weather Prediction Center's Solar Radiation Storm Warnings. These particular measurements are crucial to the health of astronauts on space missions, though passengers on certain airline routes may experience increased radiation exposure as well. In addition, these protons can cause blackouts of radio communication near the Earth's poles and can disrupt commercial air transportation flying polar routes. The warning system allows airlines to reroute planes that would normally fly over Earth’s poles.

The instrument suite also includes the DPU (Data Processing Unit). Data from SEISS will drive solar radiation storm portion of NOAA space weather scales and other alerts and warnings and will improve energetic particle forecasts.


Figure 66: Illustration of the SEISS instrument package (image credit: GOES-R project)

MAG (Magnetometer):

The MAG will provide measurements of the space environment magnetic field that controls charged particle dynamics in the outer region of the magnetosphere. These particles can be dangerous to spacecraft and human spaceflight. The geomagnetic field measurements are important for providing alerts and warnings to many customers, including satellite operators and power utilities. GOES Magnetometer data are also important in research, being among the most widely used spacecraft data by the national and international research community. The GOES-R Magnetometer products will be an integral part of the NOAA space weather operations, providing information on the general level of geomagnetic activity and permitting detection of sudden magnetic storms. In addition, measurements will be used to validate large-scale space environment models that are used in operations. The MAG requirements are similar to the tri-axial fluxgates that have previously flown. GOES-R requires measurements of three components of the geomagnetic field with a resolution of 0.016 nT and response frequency of 2.5 Hz. 125)

The MAG device is provided by Lockheed Martin, Newton, PA and is boom mounted on GOES-R.


Figure 67: Illustration of the boom-mounted MAG device (image credit: GOES-R project)

Ground Segment (GS) of the GOES-R series:

For the first time in GOES history, the GOES-R series will also be delivered with an integrated GS (Ground System) that provides a cohesive capability to provide data processing, control, and monitoring capabilities in an integrated system. 126) 127)

• In May 2009, NOAA selected the Harris Corporation - Government Communications Systems Division of Melbourne, FLA, to develop the GOES-R ground system, which will capture, process and distribute information from NOAA's next generation geostationary satellite series to users around the world. 128) 129) 130) 131) 132) 133) 134) 135)

• In February 2015, Harris Corporation has delivered all hardware and completed installation and integration of the GOES-R ground segment IT infrastructure supporting operational systems at NOAA Satellite Operations Facility (NSOF) in Suitland, Maryland, Wallops Command and Data Acquisition Station (WCDAS) in Wallops, Virginia, and the Consolidated Backup (CBU) in Fairmont, West Virginia. — The system includes 2,100 servers, 149 racks of network equipment, 317 workstations, and storage services totaling three petabytes (3 PB). The system also contains 454 blade servers with 3,632 cores for product processing and distribution across all environments, delivering approximately 40 trillion floating point operations per second of processing power. 136)

The GS is comprised of a core development effort made up of mission management, product generation, product distribution, and enterprise management elements and supported by hardware and software infrastructure. Mission management will provide the primary data receipt and command and control as well as mission planning, scheduling, and monitoring functionality in order to support the satellite operations processes of the GOES-R series.

The product generation element will process raw instrument data into higher order products, including the creation of a direct broadcast data stream to be distributed hemispherically to the GOES user community. Product distribution will provide data dissemination capabilities to ensure GOES-R products reach the user community, including dedicated pathways to the NWS (National Weather Service) for low-latency, high-availability imagery.

The enterprise management element provides an integrated monitoring and reporting capability that will enable a comprehensive view of system status, while Infrastructure provides a pooled set of hardware and software resources to be used by the elements. In addition, the GS will provide a RBU (Remote Backup Facility), new and upgraded antenna capabilities to NOAA, and will develop a user distribution and access portal known as the GOES-R Access Subsystem.

The ground segment contract baseline and options include:

• Development of the core ground segment

- Mission management element

- Enterprise management element

- Product generation element

- Subset of product generation element: a) GRB (GOES Rebroadcast), b) AWIPS (Advanced Weather Information Processing System) distribution

- Internal telecommunications/networks (i.e., intra-site)

- Option 1: improved latency / option 2: additional L2+ products

• Total ground segment integration and checkout

- Integration of GFP systems, including antennas and GAS (GOES-R Access Subsystem)

- Interfaces to external systems, including CLASS and ADRS (Ancillary Data Relay System)

• Transition to NOAA operations.


Figure 68: Architectural overview of the GOES-R Ground System (image credit: GOES-R GS Project)




Instrument data downlink

2.62 Mbit/s

~55 Mbit/s (ABI only)


2.11 Mbit/s (GVAR)

~30 Mbit/s (GRB)

Level 1b products

2.11 Mbit/s (GVAR)

~30 Mbit/s

Level 2/3 products

< 4.7 Mbit/s


Product latency

Near real-time to hrs (product dependent)

Near real-time to 15 minutes (product dependent)

No of types of products



Planned data outage

> 300 hrs / yr

< 3 hrs / yr

CLASS data storage per satellite


Daily: 1.9 TB; Yearly: 670 TB

Temporary storage

30 hrs of raw data; 7 days of product data

5 days of raw data; 7 days of product data

Table 15: GOES-N and GOES-R data transfer differences

GOES-R Ground Segment Sites:

The GOES-R GS will operate from three sites:

1) NSOF (NOAA Satellite Operations Facility) in Suitland, MD. NSOF will house the primary Mission Management (MM), Product Generation (PG), and Product Distribution (PD) functions.

2) WCDAS (Wallops Command and Data Acquisition Station), located at Wallops, VA. WCDAS will provide space communications services and selected Ground Segment functions.

3) RBU (Remote Backup) facility. RBU is a geographically isolated site, located in Fairmont, WV (West Virginia). RBU will function as a completely independent backup for designated MM, PG and PD functions for the production and delivery of critical cloud and moisture imagery products, and GOES Rebroadcast (GRB) data,and will be capable of remote operation from the NSOF and WCDAS. The RBU station will have visibility to all operational and on-orbit spare satellites. The Enterprise Management (EM) function supports GS components across all locations.


Figure 69: GOES-R Ground Segment Architecture (image credit: GOES-R GS Project, Ref. 135)


Figure 70: Operational sites of the GOES-R Ground Segment (image credit: GOES-R GS Project)

Spacecraft commands are generated by GS operators and are uplinked to the satellite through the primary command interface at the WCDAS (Wallops Command and Data Acquisition Station), located at Wallops, VA. Commands may also be generated at the NSOF (NOAA Satellite Operations Facility) in Suitland, MD and sent terrestrially to WCDAS for uplink via dedicated, high availability telecommunications circuits. Commands may also be generated from the RBU site in Fairmont, WV or may be distributed from one of the other two sites to RBU for uplink.

For GOES-R operations, the NSOF and WCDAS together comprise the “primary” sites and may be considered in certain respects as a single system. WCDAS provides the Earth-space communications functions, while primary console operations and higher-level product data functions are provided by NSOF. The RBU consolidates the mission-critical functionality of the NSOF and WCDAS into a single “backup” site that can operate completely independently.

Spacecraft telemetry data is received and processed at WCDAS during primary operations and at RBU in non-nominal or contingency situations. Telemetry includes both spacecraft health and safety information (engineering telemetry) and raw instrument data. Engineering telemetry is monitored by the system to support anomaly detection and resolution. Engineering telemetry is made available to operators at NSOF via terrestrial distribution.

Mission management provides the primary mission operations as well, including real-time console operations, offline engineering and trending, bus and instrument health and safety and performance monitoring, anomaly detection and resolution, procedure development, spacecraft resource accounting, and special operations planning and execution. These functions occur at NSOF and WCDAS during primary mission operations.

One key function associated with mission management operations is mission planning and scheduling. The GS will provide maneuver planning and scheduling for routine operations as well as special operations such as station keeping, annual yaw flips, and engineering or science investigations outside of normal operations.

Mission management also includes a detailed product monitoring function. Product monitoring enables the operations team to identify anomalies in the instrument data being generated by the GS. Product monitoring is focused on Level 1b processed data included in the GRB (GOES Rebroadcast) data stream. It also provides for the monitoring of the signal quality of the uplinked and downlinked communications signals to ensure integrity of the received data.


Figure 71: RBU (Remote Backup) Facility, Fairmont, W.VA (image credit: GOES-R GS Project, Ref. 135)

GOES-R GS Antenna System:

Associated with the development of the GS is a set of new and upgraded antennas to support the transmission and receipt of GOES-R series satellite data, along with legacy GOES mission data. At WCDAS and RBU, these antennas will provide for raw data and telemetry receipt from the spacecraft in X-band. They will support command uplinking in S-band and will provide for the uplink of GRB L1b data at X-band. They will also be capable of receiving GRB data to perform quality monitoring of the GRB downlink in L-band.


Figure 72: Notional view of of a 16.4 m antenna station (image credit: NOAA, Harris)

At WCDAS, three new 16.4 m antennas will be installed into the existing NOAA antenna infrastructure. One of the existing 18 m antennas will be replaced, and two additional antennas will be added. All three antennas will support both the GOES-R series and legacy GOES missions. They will be designed to operate through a Category 2 hurricane without performance degradation.

Three new antenna stations will also be installed at the GOES-R RBU site. These stations will be functionally identical to the WCDAS antennas and will also be capable of operating under more stressing conditions of ice and snow. Although the current GOES-R series mission does not include backup for legacy GOES at the RBU, the antennas at RBU will be capable of supporting both missions.

At NSOF, the existing 9.1 m antennas will be upgraded to be capable of receiving both GRB and legacy GVAR (GOES Variable) downlinks. This data receipt provides the primary path through which L1b data is sent to NSOF from WCDAS. Because the NSOF antennas are currently in use supporting GOES operations, they will be taken offline one at a time to be upgraded, tested, and re-installed.


Figure 73: Antenna system architecture components at each facility (image credit: NOAA, Harris)

In addition to the primary data streams, the GOES-R series antennas will support a set of Unique Payload Services. The HRIT/EMWIN (High Rate Information Transmission/Emergency Manager’s Weather Information Network) is uplinked in S-band and downlinked in L-band at WCDAS and RBU. The HRIT/EMWIN broadcast provides low-resolution GOES imagery and products, along with emergency weather forecasts and warnings generated by the NWS (National Weather Service). - In parallel, the GOES-R series system will support the collection of in-situ environmental sensor data from DCS (Data Collection System) platforms and will transpond commands to DCS platforms using the GOES-R antennas at WCDAS. Interfaces between the Antenna System and the HRIT/EMWIN and DCS systems will mirror those in place at WCDAS today, but with new and upgraded capabilities to support more DCS terminals and higher data rate signals for HRIT/EMWIN.


Figure 74: Photo of WCDAS (Wallops Command Data Acquisition Station), Wallops Island, VA (image credit: GOES-R GS Project, Ref. 135)

Core Ground Segment Functions:

The key functions of the Ground Segment are as follows:

1) MM (Mission Management):

The MM element provides the primary interface between the GS and the Space Segment. It is responsible for the following functional areas (Ref. 126):

• Space-ground communications

• Command generation

• Telemetry (TT&C) processing

• Mission operations

• Product monitoring.

Space-ground communications functions are necessary to process the radio-frequency (RF) signals received from the satellite into usable information, and to generate the RF signals transmitted from the GS back to the satellite. The antenna system being developed for GOES-R falls under the mission management element and serves as the front-end for transmission and receipt of the RF signals. An intermediate frequency (IF) interface between the antenna system and core GS passes these signals into the space-ground communications hardware, which turns them into information to be sent throughout the system.


Figure 75: Ground segment functions (image credit: NOAA)

2) PG (Product Generation):

Raw data is received at WCDAS and processed through the antenna system and space-ground communications hardware until CCSDS-formatted packets are recovered. Those packets containing raw instrument data are recovered and processed to Level 0 (L0) data (reprocessed, unreconstructed instrument data at full resolution with communications artifacts removed). This L0 data is in turn radiometrically corrected (calibrated) and geometrically corrected (navigated) to produce a L1b radiance data set. For GLM (Geostationary Lightning Mapper) data, the data set is further processed algorithmically to produce a higher order Level 2+ (L2+) product. GLM L1b and L2+ data, along with the L1b data from all other instruments, is packaged for distribution via the GRB uplink. GRB is sent from PG through the space-ground communications equipment to be uplinked from WCDAS at X-band. The GRB link is transponded onboard the GOES-R Series satellites and downlinked in L-band within the satellite coverage area down to a 5º elevation angle. GRB data is freely available to any users within the coverage area who possess the appropriate equipment to receive the data.

GRB distribution is the primary means of providing L1b instrument data from WCDAS to NSOF. L1b is received at NSOF through the antenna system and is processed back to L1b data sets. This L1b data is then further processed through a set of algorithms to create higher order (L2+) science products. These include the GOES-R KPP (Key Performance Parameter) product of Cloud and Moisture Imagery, which is the critical higher order product required for mission success.

A total of 65 End-Products have been identified for the GOES-R GS. Of these, 56 are generated based on data from the ABI. ABI products focus on atmospheric, ocean, and land data and include subcategories such as clouds, radiation, and precipitation. In addition, the GLM will provide near real-time lightning data End-Products, and the space weather instruments will generate an additional 8 Level 1b End-Products. Each product has a set of performance parameter characteristics that identify the product’s resolution, accuracy, refresh rate, latency, and precision.

The algorithms are implemented by the GS development contractor based on ATBDs (Algorithm Theoretical Basis Documents) generated by NOAA’s Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR) in the case of L2+ End-Products and provided by the instrument vendor in the case of L1b End-Products. The capability to deliver these products is divided into three phases known as Releases. The implementations will be validated against a reference data set to ensure that the output of the implemented algorithm correlates with the STAR implementation.

Depending on the algorithm used for generation of each L2+ product, ancillary data inputs may be required to create a given product. These ancillary inputs are aggregated from multiple sources such as numerical weather prediction models and snow/ice analyses through the ADRS (Ancillary Data Relay System). ADRS is being developed in conjunction with the GOES-R GS and will be configurable to meet algorithm needs over the life of the mission. ADRS will provide the ancillary data to the PG L2+ processing system to support the generation of these higher order products. Currently, 20 of the L2+ End-Products listed above require ancillary data inputs.

The PUG (Product Definition and Users' Guide) is defined in the following reference: 137)

3) PD (Product Distribution):

Once the End Products are generated, the core GS PD (Product Distribution) element ensures that data and products are provided to the appropriate entities. The core GS distributes data to the GAS (GOES-R Access Subsystem) via a dedicated network interface located at NSOF. GAS is the primary source of L2+ data for the majority of GOES users Data is also provided directly to NWS via the AWIPS (Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) interface and to NOAA’s CLASS (Comprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System) via dedicated interfaces.

The GOES-R Access System is being developed as a component of an overall upgrade of NOAA’s ESPC (Environmental Satellite Processing Center) under the ESPDS (Environmental Satellite Processing and Distribution System) development effort. GAS will consist of a seven-day storage repository and a data distribution interface supporting both subscription-based and ad hoc data requests. GAS will also provide an API (Application Programming Interface) designed to support direct machine-machine distribution of data and products to outside systems. GAS will receive the L1b and L2+ products described in Figure 68, along with ancillary data, metadata, Instrument Calibration Data, sample outlier files for the ABI, and mission operations data (schedules, satellite configuration, operations schedules, and other operational information).

The core GS PD element will also provide sectorized cloud and moisture imagery directly to the NWS via the AWIPS interface. This interface is a high availability, low latency distribution channel that ensures that the NWS receives critical KPP data. The core GS will provide a product sectorization capability that will be configurable based on the following parameters:

• Geographic coordinate corner points

• Map projection (Mercator, Lambert conformal, Polar Stereographic, or Fixed Grid)

• Spatial resolution

• Bit depth

• ABI channel

• Periodicity.

A “stressing case” consisting of a representative set of AWIPS data has been defined between the GOES-R GS and the NWS and is being used to provide a baseline capability for the system’s performance. The system will remain operationally configurable to respond to changing NWS needs within the parameters defined above.

All Level 0, L1b, and L2+ GOES-R data and products will be archived in NOAA’s CLASS repository for long-term preservation. This data repository serves as the primary storage for long-term climatological studies, as well as serving as the data source for users requiring data older than the previous seven days. These non-operational users will interface with the CLASS via a we-based interface outside of the GOES-R system. In addition, Instrument Calibration Data, calibration coefficients, ancillary data, and L2+ parameter tables will be stored to enable detailed analysis and reprocessing by the meteorological and climatological communities. The GS-CLASS interface will be sized to support the distribution of over 2.5 TB of data per day per satellite.

Figure 76 depicts the complete flow of data from the satellite’s instruments through the products’ distribution to the user community.


Figure 76: The data flow of the GOES-R mission (image credit: GOES-R GS Project)

4) EM (Enterprise Management):

The EM element of the core GS supports operational functions by supervising the overall systems and networks of the core GS. In the GOES-R context, supervision is the ability to monitor, report, and enable an operator response to anomalous conditions. EM functions underpin the infrastructure that links the MM, PG, and PD functions and supports automation. While direct control of various systems may be implemented within the individual elements, EM provides a higher layer of supervision across the GS. GS operators at all sites will have access to the EM functionality for insight to their local site and to the distributed GS components, infrastructure, and interfaces.

The EM status is generally reported through an event message generated by a core GS component. Event messages provide a standardized means of communicating particular status information or alerts to EM from the other core GS components. As the EM functionality receives status and other information provided by the distributed GS functions, operators would be able to monitor, trend, and perform other supervisory activities. Components of the GS that are not a part of the core GS will report EM status through a core GS element (e.g., the Antenna system will report via MM and the GAS will report through PD).

In addition to status and monitoring, EM provides configuration and asset management functionality for the GS. The GS uses a consolidated CMART (Configuration Management and Anomaly Reporting and Tracking) system to manage the configuration of software builds, licenses, and database schema. CMART also provides the ability to distribute software and database updates throughout the GS. The anomaly reporting and tracking components of CMART generates anomaly trouble tickets and supports the prioritization, tracking, and resolution of anomalies throughout the development and operations life cycle.

5) IS (Infrastructure):

Although not explicitly defined in the Government requirements, an Infrastructure element is being implemented within the core GS. Infrastructure provides a set of common services for the core GS that are utilized by multiple elements. These services include a network fabric, consolidated storage, database services, and an enterprise service bus. The network fabric is an IP (Internet-Protocol)-based network that provides intra-element and inter-element connectivity. It also provides connectivity across GS sites, connects to external interfaces, and supports a defense-in-depth IT (Information Technology) security strategy.

Consolidated storage provides a set of storage media and file structures that enable both short-term and long-term storage within the GS. The database services enable element-level databases through the use of relational database clusters. Finally, the enterprise service bus supports a common set of message exchanges for both intra-and inter-element communication. Consolidation of infrastructure functions under a common element enables more efficient hardware utilization, supports a standard design and implementation of common GS-wide functions, increases system flexibility, and helps centralize the management of the common functions of the system.

The GAMCATS (GOES-R Antenna Monitor, Control, and Test Subsystem) performs an analogous function to EM for the Antenna system. GAMCATS provides monitoring, control, and test functionality for the antenna control unit, receive elements, transmit elements, control ports of the switching system, RF switching, BITE (Built-In Test Equipment), environmental and fire suppression system monitoring, waveguide dehydrator, and other related equipment across all sites. During normal operations, the GOES-R antennas and associated equipment at both WCDAS and RBU will be monitored and controlled from the WCDAS operations room, with backup monitoring by operators at NSOF via remote GAMCATS workstation. GAMCATS will provide status information to the core GS MM element via event messages, and these will be relayed to the core GS EM element to provide a consolidated view of the GS status (Ref. 126).


Figure 77: Overview of GOES-R data distribution (image credit: NOAA)

GOES-R UPS (Unique Payload Services):

The GOES-R Unique Payload Services suite consists of transponder payloads providing communications relay services in addition to the primary GOES mission data. The UPS suite consists of the following elements: 138)

DCS (Data Collection System)

HRIT/EMWIN (High Rate information Transmission / Emergency Managers Weather Information Network).

GRB (GOES-R Rebroadcast). GOES-R Rebroadcast is the primary space relay of Level 1b products and will replace the GOES VARiable (GVAR) service. GRB will provide full resolution, calibrated, navigated, near-real-time direct broadcast data. The content of the data distributed via GRB service is envisioned to be the full set of Level 1b products from all instruments onboard the GOES-R series spacecraft. This concept for GRB is based on analysis that a dual-pole circularly polarized L-band link of 12 MHz bandwidth may support up to a 31-Mbps data rate – enough to include all ABI channels in a lossless compressed format as well as data from GLM, SUVI, EXIS, SEISS, and MAG.


GVAR (GOES VARiable Format)

GRB (GOES Rebroadcast)

Full Disk Image

30 minutes

5 minutes (Mode 4), 15 min (Mode 3)

Other modes

Rapid Scan, Super Rapid Scan

3000 km x 5000 km (CONUS: 5 minute)
1000 km x 1000 km (Mesoscale: 30 seconds)



DCP (Dual Circular Polarized)

Receiver center frequency

1685.7 MHz (L‐band)

1686.6 MHz (L‐band)

Data rate

2.11 Mbit/s

31 Mbit/s

Antenna coverage

Earth coverage to 5º

Earth coverage to 5º

Data sources

Imager and Sounder


Space weather



Lightning data


0.5 Mbit/s

Table 16: Transition from GVAR to GRB (Ref. 134)

SARSAT (Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking) System. NOAA operates the SARSAT system to detect and locate mariners, aviators, and other recreational users in distress almost anywhere in the world at anytime and in almost any condition. This system uses a network of satellites to quickly detect and locate distress signals from emergency beacons onboard aircraft, vessels, and from handheld PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons. The SARSAT transponder that will be carried onboard the GOES-R satellite will provide the capability to immediately detect distress signals from emergency beacons and relay them to ground stations - called Local User Terminals. In turn, this signal is routed to a SARSAT Mission Control Center and then sent to a Rescue Coordination Center which dispatches a search and rescue team to the location of the distress.

The GOES-R series continues the legacy GEOSAR (Geostationary Search and Rescue) function of the SARSAT system onboard NOAA’s GOES satellites which has contributed to the rescue of thousands of individuals in distress. The SARSAT transponder will be modified slightly for GOES-R by being able to operate with a lower uplink power (32 dBm) enabling GOES-R to detect weaker signal beacons.

Over its history, the SAR (Search and Rescue) office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has developed emergency beacons for personal, nautical and aeronautical use, along with ground station receivers that detect beacon activation. Space segment SAR instruments fly on many spacecraft in various orbits around the Earth. The GOES SAR transponders are geostationary, meaning that they appear "fixed" relative to a user on the surface due to their location over the equator and orbital period of 24 hours. 139)

"The SAR space segment isn't just one instrument in one orbit," said Tony Foster, SAR's deputy mission manager. "Rather it's a series of instruments aboard diverse satellites in various orbits, each working together to provide first responders with highly accurate locations."

The GOES search and rescue transponders, unlike SAR instruments in other orbits, are only able to detect the beacon signals, not help to determine location. This detection rapidly alerts the global SAR network, Cospas-Sarsat, of a distress beacon's activation. This gives the system valuable time to prepare before the signal's origin can be determined by SAR instruments on low-Earth-orbiting satellites.

Additionally, beacons with integrated GPS technology can send their location data through GOES to the SAR network. The network can then alert local first responders to the location of the emergency without the aid of the low-Earth-orbiting constellation of search and rescue instruments.

NASA's SAR team provides on-orbit testing, support and maintenance of the search and rescue instrument on GOES. The GOES satellites and SAR instruments are funded by NOAA.

"We are proud to support the Cospas-Sarsat program by hosting a search and rescue transponder aboard our satellites," said Tim Walsh, GOES-R series program acting system program director. "SAR is one of the many NOAA-NASA collaborations that translate into life-saving technology."

In the future, first responders will rely on a new constellation of instruments on GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems currently in medium-Earth orbit, an orbit that views larger swathes of the Earth than low-Earth orbit due to higher altitudes. These new instruments will enable the SAR network to locate a distress signal more quickly than the current system and calculate their position with accuracy an order of magnitude better, from 1 km to approximately 100 meters.

In the meantime, the SAR transponders aboard GOES cover the time between the activation of a distress signal and detection by SAR instruments in low-Earth orbit.

"NASA's SAR office dedicates itself to speed and accuracy," said Lisa Mazzuca, SAR mission manager. "The instruments and technologies we develop endeavor to alert first responders to a beacon's activation as soon as possible. The GOES search and rescue transponders are crucial to this goal, providing near-instantaneous detection in the fields of view of the Earth."

DCS (Data Collection System):

The objective of DCS is to collect near real-time environmental data from more than 19,000 data collection platforms located in remote areas where normal monitoring is not practical. The DCS receives data from platforms on ships, aircraft, balloons and fixed sites. These data are used to monitor seismic events, volcanoes, tsunami, snow conditions, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ocean data, forest fire control, meteorological and upper air parameters.

The transmissions can occur on predefined frequencies and schedules, in response to thresholds in sensed conditions, or in response to interrogation signals. The transponder on board the GOES satellite detects this signal and then rebroadcasts it so that it can be picked up by other ground-based equipment. Federal, state and local agencies then monitor the environment through the transmission of observations from these surface-based data collection platforms. The platforms can be placed in remote locations and left to operate with minimal human intervention. The Data Collection System thus allows for more frequent and more geographically complete environmental monitoring. Enhancements to the DCS program during the GOES-R era include expansion in the total number of user-platform channels from 266 to 433.


Figure 78: Data flows of the DCS (image credit: NOAA/NESDIS, Ref. 138)

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120) “Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM),” URL:

121) NOAA, NASA award GOES-R instrument contract,” Sept. 24, 2007, URL:

122) Samantha Edgington, Clemens Tillier, “Geostationary Lightning Mapper,” Proceedings of the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2014), Toronto, Canada, Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 2014, paper: IAC-14-B1.3.6

123) “Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS),” NOAA, NASA, URL:

124) “GOES-R Series, Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS), March 25, 2004, NASA, URL:

125) ”Magnetometer (MAG),” NOAA, NASA, URL:

126) Andrew W. Royle, “GOES-R Ground Segment Architectural Overview,” 2011 IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT, USA, March 5-12, 2011

127) Andrew W. Royle, “GOES-R Ground Segment Operational Concepts,” 2011 IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT, USA, March 5-12, 2011

128) Vanessa Griffin, “GOES-R Ground Segment Project Update,” AMS (American Meteorological Society) Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, January 17-21, 2010, URL:

129) “NOAA Selects Contractor to Develop GOES-R Ground System,” NOAA, May 27, 2009, URL:

130) Tom Renkevens, “GOES-R Ground Segment Overview, Products and Data Distribution,” June 3, 2009, URL:

131) Vanessa Griffin, “GOES R Ground Segment Project Status,” The Fifth Annual Symposium on Future Operational Environmental Satellite Systems - NPOESS and GOES-R and The 16th Conference on Satellite Meteorology and Oceanography,” Phoenix, AZ, January 13-14, 2009, URL:

132) “GOES ReBroadcast (GBR) Downlink Specifications for Users,” August 6, 2012, Prepared by Harris Corporation, Melbourne, FL, USA, Harris DCN -7038312, Revision-C, June 14, 2012, URL:

133) “Ground Segment Overview,” URL:

134) Farida Adimi, Satya Kalluri, Allan Weiner, Brian Haman, “GOES‐R Ground System Architecture for Product Generation,” Proceedings of GSAW 2014 (Ground System Architectures Workshop), Los Angeles, CA, USA, Feb. 24-27, 2014, URL:

135) “GOES-R Ground Segment.” Update Feb. 2014, URL:

136) “Harris Corporation Completes IT Infrastructure Installation and Integration for NOAA's GOES-R Series Ground Segment,” Harris Corporation, Feb. 25, 2015, URL:

137) “Product Definition and Users' Guide (PUG), Volume 4: GOES-R ReBroadcast (GBR),” January 30, 2013, Prepared by Harris Corporation, Melbourne, FL, USA, Harris DCN -7035538, Revision-B.1, December 17, 2012, URL:

138) “GOES-R Unique Payload Services (UPS),” URL:

139) Danny Baird, ”Weather satellites aid search and rescue capabilities,” NASA, 7 March 2018, URL:

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 (

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