December 16, 2011

GEOS-15 satellite is ready to provide improved weather forecasts and environmental intelligence

News Report

As announced in a recent press release from ITT Exelis, the new generation of weather and environmental satellites, GOES-15, officially became operational as GOES-West on Dec. 13, 2011. As a result, communities across the Western United States and Pacific region will begin to benefit from improved weather forecasts and environmental intelligence.

ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems, an operating division of ITT Exelis , designed and built the imager and sounder instruments flying on board GOES-15 for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in cooperation with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.  In addition to producing the familiar weather pictures on U.S. newscasts, these instruments will enable GOES-15 to provide early warnings of severe weather conditions like tornadoes, flash floods, hurricanes and hail storms.

The System

GOES systems (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) provide meteorologists with nearly continuous images as well as temperature and moisture data, enabling more accurate weather forecasts. GOES data is also used for climate-weather prediction models; ocean temperature; charting ice; snow and glacier mapping; land temperature measurement; and monitoring agricultural crop conditions.

GOES has become the backbone for the U.S. civil early warning weather system. With ITT's Imager's multi-spectral design and increased sensitivity it can detect temperature fluctuations; variation in low-level moisture; track hurricanes from their inception as tropical storms; track tornadoes and other severe storms; and alert residents as high-velocity winds approach land. In compiling such data, meteorologists are able to issue warnings and advisories long before they take their effect.

The Context

For 12 years, GOES-11, one of NOAA's geostationary satellites, tracked weather and severe storms that impacted the U.S. West Coast, Hawaii and the Pacific region.  On last December 6th, NOAA began the process to deactivate the satellite, which is approaching the end of its useful life, and replace it with a new, more advanced spacecraft. Launched May 3rd, 2000, GOES-11 was originally planned for a five-year mission, but lasted nearly seven years longer.

The new geostationary satellite, GOES-15, has taken the place of GOES-11 and now becomes NOAA’s GOES West spacecraft in a fixed orbit over the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and the West Coast and 22,300 miles above the equator. GOES-15 provides more data, with better resolution and image stability than GOES-11. GOES-15 joins NOAA’s other operational geostationary satellite, GOES-13, which serves as the GOES East spacecraft. The GOES are not only used for weather applications, but also track space weather, oceanographic changes, forest fires and other hazards and provide scientific data collection and information for search and rescue operations.

GOES-15 was launched March 4, 2010. After reaching geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the U.S. and prior to being activated, the satellite underwent six months of extensive post-launch testing before being parked in on-orbit storage.

NOAA is planning the next generation of geostationary satellites, called GOES-R, with the first set to launch in 2015. GOES-R is expected to more than double the clarity of today’s GOES imagery and provide more atmospheric observations than current capabilities with more frequent images. In addition, data from GOES-R instruments will be used to create many different products NOAA meteorologists and others will use to monitor the atmosphere, land, ocean and the sun.

This next-generation environmental satellite will include the most advanced meteorological imaging instrument ever built for operational weather forecasting, the ITT's Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). ABI will monitor three times the number of atmospheric conditions currently measured and will produce images that can discern objects as small as one-half a kilometer. ABI is also much faster, updating data every 30 seconds versus the current rate of 7.5 minutes. At that speed, ABI can create a full-earth image in five minutes versus 30 minutes for the current imagers. ABI also will zoom in and track a single storm while simultaneously collecting continent-wide data and imagery. All these improvements add up to faster and more accurate forecasts, improved hazardous- weather tracking and increased capability to study and monitor climate change.


Providing timely access to environmental intelligence is critical to protecting lives, property and infrastructure,” said Rob Mitrevski, vice president, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance programs at ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems. “The satellite instruments built by ITT Exelis continue to be an integral part of our nation’s weather forecast ability, enabling our country to see and solve some of the toughest environmental challenges.

References: ITT Exelis (1,2), NOAA (3)

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