Thursday, March 1, 2018

Revolutionary NASA/NOAA GOES-S Geostationary Weather Satellite for Western US Awesome Sunset Launch

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the NOAA/NASA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, or GOES-S, at 5:02 p.m. EST on March 1, 2018. GOES-S is the second satellite in a series of next-generation weather satellites. Credit: Ken Kremer/

Ken Kremer  --  --   1 Mar 2018

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The second in a series of next generation NOAA/NASA geostationary weather observation satellites was launched on a ULA Atlas V near sunset today, Thursday March 1, in an awesome display or rocketry and science that will also revolutionize weather forecasting in the Western Hemisphere.

The GOES-S satellite launched today will provide vastly improved forecasts and warnings on weather, wildfires, tornadoes and cyclones for California and the western United States all the way out to Hawaii and Guam in ways that will positively impact the lives of everyday people as well as save lives by helping pinpoint outbreaks of severe weather in near real time.
The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) lifted off in picture perfect fashion on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from seaside Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:02 p.m. EST.

The 20 story tall Atlas V rocket roared off pad 41 on the Cape with 2.25 million pounds of liftoff thrust generated by the first stage solid and liquid fueled engines and put on a spectacular sky show soaring to orbit atop a tremendous exhaust plume of smoke and ash originating from America’s premier spaceport.

Tens of thousands of excited spectators from around the globe lined sandy beaches and packed parks, restaurants, roads and viewing locations ringing the Kennedy Space Center- and they were all thrilled to witness history in the making.

The four strap on solid rocket boosters were jettisoned at 1 minute 50 seconds after liftoff when their fuel was expended and atop the rising exhaust plume.  

The 5 meter diameter bisector payload fairing encapsulating the satellite was jettisoned at 3 minutes 29 seconds into flight and above the earth’s atmosphere.

Confirmation that the spacecrafts power generating solar arrays deployed as planned came at 8:58 p.m. ET nearly four hours after launch and the team heaved a collective sigh of relief.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the NOAA/NASA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, or GOES-S at 5:02 p.m. EST on March 1, 2018 - as seen from the VAB roof.  GOES-S is the second satellite in a series of next-generation weather satellites. Credit: Ken Kremer/

GOES-S will deliver a quantum leap in weather forecasting for the western United States just as GOES-R – the first satellite in the new series – is now doing for the eastern United Stated since it only recently became operational in December 2017.

“We at NASA Science are proud to support our joint agency partner NOAA on today’s launch of GOES-S, a national asset that will impact lives across the Western Hemisphere each and every day,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, who attended today’s launch.

“The satellite will provide faster, more accurate and more detailed data, in near real-time, to track storm systems, lightning, wildfires, coastal fog and other hazards that affect the western United States.”

The 197 foot tall Atlas V propelled GOES-S into an initial geosynchronous transfer orbit on its way to geostationary orbit soaring some 22,200 mi (35800 km) above Earth where it will operate for the remainder of its planned 15 year lifetime. 

To date ULA has launched every GOES  satellite on current and heritage Atlas and Delta rockets since the first mission lifted off in 1975. 

“Everything went great with the launch of the Atlas V and the GOES-S spacecraft was delivered to its initial elliptical orbit,” Tim Gasparrini, GOES-S program manager for Lockheed Martin, told Space Up Close during a post launch interview today, March 1, at the KSC press site. 

GOES-S was built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Littleton, Colorado.  

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, or GOES-S at 5:02 p.m. EST. GOES-S is the second satellite in a series of next-generation weather satellites. Credit: Ken Kremer/

GOES-S, which stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite–S, is a new and advanced transformational weather satellite that will vastly enhance the quality, speed and accuracy of weather forecasting available to forecasters for Earth’s Western Hemisphere after it becomes operational later this year.

ULA Atlas V Launch of NOAA/NASA GOES-S weather satellite on March 1, 2018. Credit: Julian Leek

Once it achieves orbit GOES-S will be renamed as GOES-17/GOES West.

“GOES 17 will become operational in the fall of 2018," Tim Walsh, acting GOES-R system program director at NOAA told Space UpClose during an interview at KSC.  “It will give us the equivalent perspective for the western US that we now have for the eastern US using the six onboard instruments namely ABI and GLM, SUVI, EXIS, SEIS and the magnetometer.”

GOES-S is the second in the new GOES-R series of America’s most powerful and most advanced next generation geostationary weather observation satellites.  It is designed to last for a 15 year orbital lifetime and will deliver a ‘quantum leap’ in weather forecasting. 

GOES-S will work in tandem with twin sister satellite GOES-R which was successfully launched by a ULA Atlas V on Nov. 19, 2016.

Altogether the GOES-R series consists of a quartet of four identical satellites - comprising GOES-R, GOES-S, GOES-T and GOES-U – manufactured at an overall cost of about $11 Billion. This will keep the GOES satellite system operational through 2036.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket streaks to orbit darting through thin clouds with  powerful new GOES-S weather sat for Western US from NOAA and NASA after liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:02 p.m. EST on March 1, 2018 - as seen from the VAB roof. Credit: Ken Kremer/

The GOES-R series (including GOES-S) science suite includes the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI), Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS), Space Environment In-Situ Suite (SEISS), and the Magnetometer (MAG). 

ABI is the primary instrument and will collect 3 times more spectral data with 4 times greater resolution and scans 5 times faster than ever before - via the primary Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument - compared to the current GOES satellites.


ABI views the earth with 16 spectral channels in the visible, near infrared and infrared channels compared to 5 for he legacy GOES satellites.

“We are seeing a revolutionary step forward in performance with 4x better spatial resolution, 3 x as many frequencies or spectral bands, and we receive images 5 x faster,” Walsh said already with GOES-R/GOES-16 compared to the legacy GOES East/West satellite imager technologies “which were created and developed in the mid-1980s.”

“Currently to do a full western hemisphere image with the current imager on orbit today takes 26 minutes. With GOES-R now we can do the same thing in 5 minutes.”

“So it gives us much better severe weather forecasting and now weather forecasting imagery.”

“We hope to start test imaging with GOES-S by around early May, said Walsh. “First we need to raise the temperature of the instruments once on orbit. We will outgas them for several weeks.”

“There is no real difference between this spacecraft GOES-S/GOES 17 and GOES-R/GOES 16.” 

But they will be located at different positions in the equatorial belt to obtain different views.  Together they will be able to image the entire US and regions further out beyond to the east and west to provide coverage of the entire Western Hemisphere.

“GOES 17 will provide imagery that will complement what we have from GOES 16.”

“GOES S will be located at 137 degrees west longitude over the eastern pacific. So at that time we will be able to see the entire United States out to Hawaii, Alaska and even almost to New Zealand.”

“GOES-R/GOES 16 is located at 75 degrees west longitude gives the full Eastern seaboard and CONUS [continental US] coverage,” Walsh explained.

The gigantic school bus sized satellite measures  6.1 m x 5.6 m x 3.9 m (20.0 ft x 18.4 ft x 12.8 ft) with a three-axis stabilized spacecraft bus.

It has a dry mass of 2,857 kg (6,299 lbs) and a fueled mass of 5,192 kg (11,446 lbs) at launch.

GOES-S blasted off on a ULA Atlas V in the very powerful 541 configuration with the satellite shrouded in a two piece payload fairing 5 meters (16.4 feet) in diameter. 

The first stage is powered by the Russian built duel nozzle RD AMROSS RD-180 engine that delivers 860,000 pounds of sea level thrust and is fueled by liquid oxygen and RP-1 highly refined kerosene. It is augmented with four strap on AJ-60A solid rocket motors provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne that deliver 348,000 pounds of thrust. It measures 12.5 ft in diameter and 106.5 ft in length

The cryogenic Centaur upper stage is powered by a single-engine Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engine that is fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen and produces 22,900 pounds of thrust. It measures 10 ft in diameter and 41.5 ft in length.

This was only the sixth Atlas V launch employing the 541 configuration. 

“Thank you to our partners at NASA and NOAA for the outstanding teamwork, as we delivered this next-generation satellite to orbit,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We are proud to serve as the ultimate launch provider, continuing our dedication to 100 percent mission success.”

Overall this was the 76th launch of the Atlas V rocket, ULA’s 3rd launch in 2018 and the 126th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006 as a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Watch this launch video compilation:

Video Caption: COMPILATION Views / GOES-S Launches atop ULA Atlas V Rocket on March 1, 2018 from CCAFS pad 41. Credit: Jeff Seibert

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: – – twitter @ken_kremer - ken at


Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Learn more about the upcoming GOES-S weather satellite launch and upcoming/recent SpaceX Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 Hispasat, GovSat-1 launches on Jan. 30 & Feb. 6, Mar 6, NASA missions, ULA Atlas & Delta launches, SpySats and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events at Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL:

Feb 28, Mar 2,5,6: “GOES-S weather satellite launch, SpaceX Falcon Heavy & Falcon 9 launches, ULA Atlas USAF SBIRS GEO 4 missile warning satellite, SpaceX GovSat-1, CRS-14 resupply launches to the ISS, NRO & USAF Spysats, SLS, Orion, Boeing and SpaceX Commercial crew capsules, , OSIRIS-Rex, Juno at Jupiter, InSight Mars lander, Curiosity and Opportunity explore Mars, NH at Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings. Photos for sale

GOES-S weather observation satellite instrument suite graphic. Credit: NASA/NOAA

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