GOES-T will replace GOES-17…next year!

It’s now official: GOES-T will replace GOES-17 next year.

As many weather enthusiasts may know, GOES-17, aka GOES-WEST, has a problem with its cooling system. It has a faulty design that is seen in both GOES-16 and GOES-17, but thanks to debris inside the cooling system, the issue is worse in GOES-17. In GOES-16, temperatures get very warm, but not hot enough to cause problems with the image sensor. But on GOES-17, it gets very hot…to the point where, during various weeks of the year, the imager has to be shut down for 8 hours a day.

Enter GOES-T and GOES-U. GOES-T was scheduled to launch in 2020, and GOES-U is still scheduled to launch in 2024. But, after the problems with GOES-16 and 17 were discovered and replicated here on Earth, the cooling system had to be redesigned, and tested on both satellites.

And then, COVID struck.

So now, workers had to stop work, and then take extra precautions in working on the new satellite. Thankfully, a redesign of the cooling system didn’t take too long, and NOAA announced on June 24, 2021 that they will launch, weather and satellite permitting, GOES-T into space on December 7, 2021. And, they also announced that after successful testing and positioning, it will then become GOES-WEST early in 2022. GOES-17 will then be shut down and placed into standby mode.

That is an incredible 4-year timeline acceleration plan! GOES-T/GOES-18 was supposed to be launched in 2020, and then put into storage for 4 years before replacing GOES-17. But, the problems with GOES-17 have necessitated pushing up that schedule dramatically.

Of course, you may have this question: So, what’s different about GOES-17, versus GOES-T, aka the upcoming new GOES-18? Well, there *generally* isn’t a difference to the casual user. It won’t be like going from GOES-15 to GOES-16, the latter of which, of course, blew our minds and also accelerated the shutdown of GOES-15. 30-second imagery for hurricanes was just pure eye candy…and a huge help to meteorologists. Furthermore, we got a lot more channels to see things like fires, haze/fog, and we also enjoyed a much higher resolution of imagery versus what was available on GOES-15. The differences between GOES-15 to GOES-16 was nothing short of a revolution in satellite meteorology.

The difference between GOES-17 and GOES-18 is an evolution. Even so, here are the key improvements you’ll see:

1. Space weather monitoring. OK, this actually IS a revolution. It has a much improved magnetometer, so we will be able to monitor sunspots, flares and other shenanigans on the sun considerably better than we can right now. For those who watch the Northern Lights, this will help us see eruptions of sunspots and flares better that hit our planet and cause the streaks and bands of light we love. It also can better tell us if those flares are benign, or dangerous to our planet, and give us better warning.

2. Is your boat or ship in distress? Chances are you’ll use SARSAT in the open waters of the Pacific to contact help. GOES-T/18 has an improved receiver on it, which means that even with a low power radio, you’re more likely to be heard from the satellite.

Otherwise, the spatial and temporal resolution of the ABI imager remains exactly the same. Still, these improvements are significant, and will be nice, if all goes well (pun intended!), to have imagery 24/7/365 without wondering if the satellite will have an issue.

The scheduled launch date of GOES-T is December 7, 2021 at 4:40 PM ET from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-41 launch pad. We’ll be watching!

GOES-17 satellite artist image

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