Sentinels in the Sky: The Lasting Legacy of the GOES-R Weather Satellite Series

Sentinels in the Sky: The Lasting Legacy of the GOES-R Weather Satellite Series

June 21, 2024

With changing weather patterns, we regularly check in to forecast models and radar — as much as once a day. Whether we’re tuning in to the morning weather forecast on the TV, pulling up a weather app on our phones, or listening to the radio to get our daily forecast, we’re benefiting from NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-R series data.

As we approach the launch of the GOES-U weather satellite, the last in the GOES-R series built by Lockheed Martin, the impacts of this advanced spacecraft constellation cannot be overlooked. From real-time weather updates to predictive forecasting, GOES-R series satellites have kept a watchful eye on Earth’s ever-changing weather for nearly a decade and are setting the stage for the next wave of Earth and space weather technology.


GOES-U on Guard

With two operational GOES satellites on orbit at all times, together, GOES-East and GOES-West observe more than half the globe. The GOES-R series offers four times better resolution than earlier generations of GOES satellites, with full scans of the Earth every five minutes and up to 30 seconds of an area with severe storms. This has helped deliver crucial data across atmospheric, hydrologic, oceanic, climatic, solar and space geophysical variables.

Among these, the GOES-R series has proven critical for wildfire monitoring and hurricane tracking. For example, since 2017, NOAA reports the GOES-R series has tracked more than 250 named tropical systems to help mitigate loss of life and property from these natural disasters.

“GOES data greatly enhances the detection and observation of environmental phenomena that impact public safety, property protection and the nation's economic health,” said Jagdeep Shergill, Program Director, Geo Weather, Lockheed Martin. “GOES-U will only add to this situational awareness and provide critical information for proactive disaster mitigation to get ahead of Earth’s global climate issues.”


The Tech Behind the Magic

To tackle environmental issues, GOES-U has seven highly sophisticated instruments to help provide early warning of severe weather on Earth as well as approaching space weather hazards.

Drawing on a legacy that goes back to launching the first weather satellite in the 1960s, Lockheed Martin designed and built two of the GOES-R series instruments:

  • The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), which tracks lightning across the U.S. in real-time, takes 500 images every second and maps both cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning.
  • The Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI) telescope measures the sun in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength range and provides full-disk solar images to better predict solar events that may disrupt power utilities, communication or navigation systems here on Earth.

"Since the launch of GOES-R in 2016, our scientists at the National Weather Service have benefited from the giant steps forward in imaging and lightning detection technology, critical to our mission of saving lives and protecting property," said Ken Graham, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "GOES-U takes our observational satellites another step forward with the addition of our first operational coronagraph, allowing us to constantly track space weather in near-real time."


The Next Generation of Weather Observations

The next-generation Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) satellite system, expected to launch in the early 2030s, will expand observations of Earth that the GOES-R series provides from geostationary orbit. The Lockheed Martin-built GeoXO spacecraft will aid in increased national resilience and decision-making through its advanced imager and lightning mapper, while adding the ability to observe ocean color and ecosystem health, atmospheric composition and air quality, and a hyperspectral infrared sounder that will improve weather models. The combination of continuity and new observations will enable GeoXO to be a new toolset for severe weather and climate change risk mitigation. 


The Lockheed Martin Value

At Lockheed Martin, we provide a continuous look at our planet’s ever-changing weather and climate patterns. Keeping in line with our legacy of designing and building weather satellites and instrumentation, we are leveraging our climate expertise in disciplines like Earth observation, remote sensing and artificial intelligence to address intensifying climate challenges. 

The influence of the GOES-R series on the next wave of weather missions is hard to miss. As we celebrate the history of the GOES-R satellites ahead of the final launch in the series, we also look with excitement to the future technology that will broaden our understanding of how to protect our planet even more.