U.S. weather satellite's launch promises
'quantum leap' in forecasts
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[November 21, 2016]
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - A U.S.
weather satellite that will "revolutionize" forecasting blasted off from
Florida's Cape Canaveral on Saturday, promising to deliver continuous
high-definition views of hurricanes and other storms over the Western
A detailed stream of images provided by the satellite is expected to
sharpen weather forecasts, provide more advanced warning of floods and
better tracking of wildfires, plumes and volcanic ash clouds.
Carried atop an Atlas 5 rocket, the GOES-R satellite lifted off from
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:42 p.m. EST.
The launch was delayed an hour to resolve a technical issue with the
rocket, developed by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed
Martin Corp. <LMT.N> and Boeing Co. <BA.N>, said NASA launch commentator
Mike Curie. A second, unrelated issue also contributed to the delay.
Once in position 22,300 miles (35,888 km) above the equator, GOES-R is
designed to take a complete picture of the hemisphere every five minutes
while simultaneously zooming in on specific regions to monitor fires,
volcanic eruptions, heavy rainfall and storms.
The satellite, the 17th in the Geostationary Operational Environmental
Satellite (GOES) series, is the first to be launched since 2010. It is a
step up from its predecessors, which take 30 minutes to image the
hemisphere and are not capable of carrying out multiple tasks at the
same time. “This is a quantum leap,” Sandra Cauffman, deputy director of
Earth Sciences at NASA, said at a press conference on Thursday. "It will
truly revolutionize weather forecasting.”
The heart of the new satellite is a high-resolution camera, designed and
built Exelis Inc., a subsidiary of Harris Corp <HRS.N>. It can see in 16
wavelengths, compared with five available with the current system.
GOES-R, developed by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, has four times better resolution and can take images
five times faster than its predecessors, said NOAA program scientist
The satellite's capabilities go beyond weather forecasting. The sharper
view will enable forecasters to see waves in clouds, for example, so
pilots can avoid turbulence and give airline passengers smoother rides.
GOES-R, built by Lockheed, includes the first operational lightning
mapper, which will image lightning fields in the western hemisphere 200
times a second, NOAA said.
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The upper stage and payload fairing containing the Geostationary
Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-R) on a United Launch
Alliance Atlas V rocket is shown at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, U.S. on November 18, 2016.
Courtesy Ben Smegelsky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS
It is the first of four satellites in a system upgrade that will cost
$11 billion, including launch fees, said NOAA Assistant Administrator
Stephen Volz. The next satellite is slated for launch in 2018.
GOES, along with a second, polar-orbiting weather satellite network
operated by NOAA, has faced cost overruns and program delays due to
technical issues and mismanagement, according to a December 2015 U.S.
Government Accountability Office report.
Once in orbit, the new satellite will undergo about 11 months of testing
before it joins the operational fleet, which now numbers three units,
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler)
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