Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite

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The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (or GOES) system, operated by the United States National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), supports weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and meteorology research. Spacecraft and ground-based elements of the system work together to provide a continuous stream of environmental data. The National Weather Service (NWS) uses the GOES system for its United States weather monitoring and forecasting operations, and scientific researchers use the data to better understand land, atmosphere, ocean, and climate interactions.

The GOES system uses geosynchronous satellites which—since the launch of SMS-1 in 1974—have been a basic element of U.S. weather monitoring and forecasting.



Four GOES satellites are currently available for operational use:

  • GOES-11 is designated GOES-West, currently located at 135°W over the Pacific Ocean.[1]
  • GOES-12 is designated GOES-South, currently located at 75°W over the Amazon River.[2]
  • GOES-13 is designated GOES-East, currently located at 105°W. It provides most of the U.S. weather information.[3]
  • GOES 14 was placed in orbit on 7 July 2009, underwent Post-Launch Testing until December 2009 and then was placed in on-orbit storage.[4]

Several GOES satellites are still in orbit, either inactive or re-purposed. GOES-3 is no longer used for weather operations, but is a critical part of the communication links between the United States and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Geostationary satellites cannot ordinarily be seen at all from the poles, but they require station keeping fuel to keep them stationary over the equator. When station keeping fuel runs out, solar and lunar perturbations increase the satellite's inclination so that its ground track begins to describe a figure-8 in the north-south direction. This usually ends the satellite's primary mission. But when the inclination is high enough, the satellite may begin to rise above the polar horizons at the extremes of the figure-8, as is the case for GOES-3. A nine-meter dish was constructed at the station, and communication with the satellite is currently possible for about five hours per day. Data rates are around 2.048 Mbit/s bi-directional under optimum conditions.

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