NOAA has released the first images from the new GOES-18 weather satellite launched March 1 from Cape Canaveral, and has confirmed that the spacecraft’s main camera is not suffering from the same cooling system issue that caused degraded vision in a previous satellite.
The first GOES-18 images were captured May 5 from a position in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above the equator. GOES 18’s main camera, called the Advanced Baseline Imager, recorded views over 16 channels, each tuned to see clouds, dust, smoke and water vapor in different wavelengths of light.
Images released Thursday showed severe thunderstorms over northeast Texas, dry conditions over much of Mexico and the American Southwest, and fog near the coasts of California and Chile.
The new satellite is not yet operational, but is expected to support real-time weather coverage of the western United States, Alaska, Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean region in early 2023. It will replace GOES-17 in the so-called “GOES-West”.
The GOES-17 camera instrument suffers from degraded performance, likely caused by debris lodged in the instrument’s cooling system. The malfunction means that the instrument’s detectors are unable to stay at the proper temperatures at certain times, resulting in intermittent loss of some infrared images.
Ground crews were able to recover some of the instrument’s lost function. NOAA officials said earlier this year that the GOES-17 imager is collecting about 97% of its predicted data, with most image issues limited to times when the satellite is exposed to specific thermal conditions.
NOAA says the GOES-18 camera, built by L3Harris, is working as expected.
“The ABI cooling system is working well, with no signs of the problem affecting its sister satellite, GOES-17,” NOAA said Thursday. “The ABI has been redesigned for GOES-18 to reduce the likelihood of future cooling system anomalies. The new design uses a simpler hardware configuration that eliminates debris-sensitive filters.”
GOES-18, formerly known as GOES-T, lifted off from Cape Canaveral on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. The Atlas 5 deployed the spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, to a target transfer orbit , then the satellite used its own propulsion to reach a circular geostationary orbit on March 14.
At this altitude, the satellites orbit the Earth at the same rate of rotation of the planet, which means that weather satellites can provide continuous views of the same hemisphere. NOAA renamed GOES-T to GOES-18 once it reached geostationary orbit.
Ground controllers maneuvered the satellite to a test location along the equator at 89.5 degrees west longitude, where GOES-18 took its first photos for public release. The next step for GOES-18 will be a drift to 136.8 degrees west longitude for additional testing and instrument calibrations alongside GOES-17. In early 2023, NOAA plans to transition to GOES-18 as an operational satellite at the GOES-West location, and GOES-17 will become a backup in the US government’s fleet of weather satellites.
NOAA also released the first observations from GOES-18’s magnetometer instrument and space environment sensor suite, enabling the satellite to monitor solar activity and space weather, helping to provide early warnings for events that could disrupt communications, power grids, navigation systems and spacecraft operations. .
From the GOES-West orbital position, GOES-18 will be well positioned to track storm systems approaching the US West Coast, Pacific hurricanes, wildfires and volcanic plumes in the Pacific region. ‘Pacific Ocean.
GOES-18 also embeds a lightning mapping tool to detect and locate lightning strikes within the satellite’s field of view. The spacecraft hosts a transponder to receive and relay distress messages, part of a global space-based search and rescue repeater network.
GOES-18 is the third satellite in NOAA’s latest generation of geostationary weather satellites. The first, GOES-16, launched in 2016 and operational, covers the US East Coast and Atlantic Ocean region, an area ripe for hurricane development.
A fourth and final current-generation satellite, named GOES-U, is under construction for launch in 2024.
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