The Women of Weather – Program Management with Jagdeep Shergill

The next satellite in the GOES-R series of weather and climate observation spacecraft successfully launched on March 1, 2022. Lockheed Martin is highlighting the incredible women behind the engineering and innovations of the state-of-the-art GOES-T satellite headed toward geostationary orbit this spring.

When it comes to weather observation and forecast accuracy, reliability and technological innovation are key to providing timely and potentially life-saving data that directly affects the public. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) next state-of-the-art weather and Earth observation satellite in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite series, GOES-T, is about to embark on its mission—joining its fellow GOES-R series of spacecraft already in orbit to ultimately provide complete weather and climate coverage for more than half of the globe.

Jagdeep Shergill, GOES-R Series program manager at Lockheed Martin said, “Our mission on the GOES program is to protect life and property by providing advanced real-time monitoring of weather, oceans and climate.”

Instrumental Mission

GOES-T is the third in a new generation of weather and climate observation satellites that host new and upgraded instruments that watch not just the Earth, but also cosmic events coming from deep space. “The spacecraft is a geostationary weather observation satellite that has a variety of different instruments on it,” Shergill said, “including Earth-pointing instruments that monitor weather here on Earth, as well as sun-pointing instruments and space-pointing instruments.” Solar activity and even cosmic events coming through the solar system from neighboring parts of the galaxy  affect Earth’s weather and climate.

One of the upgraded technologies flying aboard the spacecraft is the geostationary lightning mapper, GLM, that looks down at Earth and takes images of lightning strikes that occur—not just the lightning that we see going from the clouds to the ground, but also cloud-to-cloud lightning. Shergill said, “GLM is a Lockheed Martin-produced instrument and its data has proven to be very important indicator in predicting the severity of storms well in advance of the storm’s landfall.” The data from the GLM can help forecasters focus on severe weather systems before they produce high winds, hail or even tornadoes.

 

The longest, single lightning bolt - 477 miles - captured by GOES-16 on April 29, 2020
GOES GLM

Making an Impact

When it comes to weather forecasting and climate analysis, time is of the essence. The faster we can gather and analyze the data, the faster forecasters can make impactful predictions, potentially saving lives. “The most rewarding thing has been seeing how the data from the GOES spacecraft affects our everyday lives,” Shergill said. “The data that we’re getting off of the GLM instrument and L3Harris’ ABI (advanced baseline imager) provides the earliest wildfire alerts to emergency responders, including those caused by lightning strikes.”  

NASA NOAA GOES Marshall fire

GOES-16 GeoColor imagery of the Marshall fire in Boulder, CO. Dec. 30, 2021

Recently, forecasters were able to utilize the data from these instruments to predict the movement of wildfires that affected the Boulder, Colorado, area in late 2021. The ABI often detects heat signatures and potential fires before they are spotted on the ground by looking at varying wavelengths and using that data to determine fire properties including size, temperature and radiative power. Using this data, action plans can be put into place to protect the public. “GOES wildfire data is being uploaded onto services like Google Maps and keeping us safe by telling us where those fire hotspots are.” Shergill said. “This tells us, as the general public, what areas to avoid. GOES data is what makes that possible.”

NASA NOAA GOES Marshall fire

Four-panel imagery from GOES-16 showing fire temperatures.

One Day at a Time

Building a spacecraft is a feat on its own, let alone when working through the challenge of a global pandemic. As program manager for GOES, Shergill was faced with the additional task of managing remote and onsite teams. “Half our team went to remote, virtual environments while the other half—the team that actually builds and tests the spacecraft—had to stay on site to be able to do their work,” Shergill said.  “Managing the team through that kind of transition and still being in it two years later as we’re getting ready to launch the spacecraft has been an unexpected challenge.”

Collaboration and flexibility were key to the successful development of the GOES-T satellite. “It’s a real feat of engineering, ingenuity and determination that we have gone through to get to this point,” Shergill said. “It helped us see how capable we really are as a team, working together virtually and making it come together for our customer without any negative impact to the technical integrity of the mission or the overall schedule to meet our mission. I’ve been very proud to see how our teams worked to get through this challenge safely.”

GOES Coremate
GOES-T succesfully launched on March 1, 2022. Click  here  to learn more about the Women of Weather.