New Weather Satellite to Launch on Falcon Heavy

The next generation of weather observation satellites continues on next week with the upcoming launch of GOES-U.

For the last 50 years, NOAA has operated a family of Geostationary (that is, rotating once ever 24 hours, appearing to “hover” over one spot) satellites solely dedicated to monitoring the entire weather patterns across the entirety of the Western Hemisphere, known as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite series, or GOES – and the technology has only gotten better with time.

The network of satellites typically consists of two satellites at any given time – one called GOES East, and one West. This pattern is arranged so that both oceans as well as all of the continental United States have high resolution coverage from these satellites – and useful though they are, they aren’t immortal.

Since 2016, the 4th generation of GOES satellites have been hovering overhead keeping an eye on the weather – also known as the GOES-R series. These satellites are the most advanced yet, and can snap imagery of tornadic cells, hurricanes, storm systems and anything in-between as rapid as every 30 seconds, and at visible and infrared wavelengths simultaneously.

Also of note is the satellites capability to image the sun in multiple light spectrums, which proved extremely useful not long ago when we saw a once-in-a-lifetime Aurora show here in the Tennessee Valley – the forecasting of which was largely benefited by GOES data (thanks for that, GOES… I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that for the world!)

Nevertheless, the satellite that we’ve made heavy use of here in the Tennessee Valley is GOES-East, or GOES-16, which replaced the third generation GOES-13 – and will be replaced by GOES-U (to be named GOES-19 after launch) this summer after 8 years of service – so we at Tennessee Valley Weather will be using this new satellite very soon if all goes (pun intended) well!

The launch to get GOES-U into orbit is scheduled to take place June 25, 2024 and, much to the pleasure of rocket nerds everywhere, will be lifted into orbit by the heaviest operational rocket in the US inventory – SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy.

If you are going to be down by the Kennedy Space Center (or frankly anywhere in Eastern Florida) for summer break, keep your eyes and ears peeled for this launch if you can manage to make the time – rocket launches of this scale aren’t too common, and are something everyone should experience at least once in their lives!

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Bryan Wilson
Meteorologist & Radar Expert at Tennessee Valley Weather... and perpetual nerd.

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