Before Severe Weather Strikes, GOES-R is On Watch

GOES-R Weather Ready

Paralyzing snowfalls, torrential downpours, extreme temperatures, severe drought, destructive tornadoes and catastrophic hurricanes – all with the potential to wreak havoc on communities. That’s why it’s important to not just know what weather is coming our way, but to be weather ready.

Weather-Ready Nation is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) initiative to reduce weather impacts through improved readiness. Weather-Ready Nation focuses on being ready, responsive and resilient at personal, community and national levels through NOAA’s network of Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors.

“What good is a perfect weather forecast without knowing what to do?” asks Jamie Hawkins, Lockheed Martin’s Director of Civil Space and Environmental Programs. “We need to be ready to act in the face of inclement weather.”

Luckily, forecasting for major weather events is about to get a lot clearer with the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R), built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company for NOAA. GOES-R, the first of four satellites in the upgraded series, is scheduled to launch in October 2016.

Rain or Shine, GOES-R Has Eyes from the Sky

“Meteorologists need ground-based systems measuring local weather conditions, but they also need observations from high above Earth’s atmosphere and giving the ‘big picture,’" Jamie said. “Geostationary satellites, such as GOES, rotate with the Earth, maintaining a constant vigil over a specific location of the Earth’s surface. GOES-R will gather environmental intelligence around the clock.”

Carrying six instruments, GOES-R’s data will support short-term weather forecasts and severe storm watches and warnings, maritime forecasts, seasonal predictions, drought outlooks and space weather predictions. Additionally, GOES-R products will improve hurricane tracking and intensity forecasts, and increase thunderstorm and tornado warning lead time.  

“The instruments onboard GOES-R are the first upgrades to the GOES system since the 1980s, providing higher-resolution images of weather patterns and severe storms five times faster than today,” said Tim Gasparrini, vice president and GOES-R Series program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.

The GOES-R Series satellites will also carry the first lightning mapper flown from geostationary orbit. The Geostationary Lighting Mapper (GLM), built by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center, will take 500 images a second, looking for lightning across North America that could indicate severe storm build-up.

“GLM is unique both in how it operates and in the information it collects,” added Tim. “Measuring both cloud-to-ground and cloud-to-cloud activity over both land and oceans, GLM will identify growing, active and potentially destructive thunderstorms.”

The enhanced capability enabled by GOES-R to monitor multiple weather events and provide real-time weather forecast information to the NOAA’s National Weather Service has the potential to protect communities and save lives.

“Being ‘weather-ready’ depends on the information collected by GOES-R,” said Jamie. “With faster, more accurate weather observations, we can be better prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings our way.”

The GOES-R spacecraft has been assembled, completed a two-month thermal vacuum test and is currently in mechanical environment testing. The GOES-S spacecraft, the next in the GOES-R Series, is also in process in Denver.

In addition to the four GOES-R Series satellites and the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), Lockheed Martin also designed and built the Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI) instruments that will fly aboard each spacecraft.