Published: Sat, March 03, 2018
Economy | By

The western USA is about to get a fancy new weather satellite

The western USA is about to get a fancy new weather satellite

The GOES-S satellite thundered toward orbit aboard an Atlas V rocket, slicing through a hazy late afternoon sky.

"The new satellite will augment observations over the Pacific Ocean and around mountain ranges where radar coverage is limited or blocked", said Joe Pica, a National Weather Service manager. It will become GOES-17 once it reaches its intended 22,000-mile-high orbit over the equator in a few weeks, and should be officially operational by year's end.

In the moments leading up to the launch, the U.S. Air Force's 45 Weather Squadron said conditions were flawless for launch.

FILE - The center of Hurricane Maria approaches the northern coast of Puerto Rico in this geocolor image captured by NOAA's GOES-16, September 20, 2017. NASA also oversees the acquisition of the spacecraft, instruments and launch vehicles.

"I believe very strongly GOES-S will improve the scientific understanding for the western US, just like GOES-East has for the eastern USA, and is another step forward in our overall effort to build a weather-ready nation", Uccellini added.

An artist's rendering of the new GOES-S satellite in orbit around the earth.

Tory Bruno, the president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and , he needs to significantly improve opportunities of early warning, forecasting and weather monitoring, to improve the efficiency of disaster response. It also tracked the paths of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, providing crucial data as to which areas would be impacted the greatest.

National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said he's been "blown away" by the impacts GOES-16 has had on weather forecasting. Those images helped determine when it was safe for rescue teams to go out and save stranded residents, he added. The state-of-the-art satellite was able to spot wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma a year ago before emergency responders were even alerted. Besides fire, lightning and tropical storms, the satellite can also track the influx of charged particles and radiation from the sun called space weather.

"These satellites are giving us the ability to look at storms as often as every 30 seconds, allowing forecasters to see storms as they are developing instead of as they have already taken place", said Tim Walsh, acting GOES-R system program director at NOAA.

The four-satellite GOES-R program has a total budget of $10.8 billion through its entire life cycle.

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