NOAA’s GOES-18 satellite has entered service as GOES-West following months of post-launch testing of the instrumentation, systems and data.
Launched on March 1, 2022, GOES-18 replaces GOES-17 as GOES-West, located 35,785km above the equator over the Pacific Ocean. GOES-17 will become an on-orbit standby.
In its new role, GOES-18 will serve as NOAA’s primary geostationary satellite for detecting and monitoring Pacific hurricanes, atmospheric rivers, coastal fog, wildfires, volcanic eruptions and other environmental phenomena that affect the western contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico and Central America.
The satellite delivers high-resolution visible and infrared imagery, atmospheric measurements and real-time mapping of lightning activity. It is ideally located to monitor the northeastern Pacific Ocean, where many weather systems that affect the continental US originate. GOES-18 also watches the sun and detects approaching space weather hazards.
GOES-18 joins GOES-16 (GOES-East) in operational service. Together the two satellites watch over more than half the globe, from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand and from near the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle. Their data assists weather forecasters, emergency managers, first responders, the aviation and shipping industries, and more.
Although GOES-18 has just officially entered operational service, the satellite has been assisting NOAA National Weather Service forecasters for months. Usually, GOES satellites complete post-launch testing in a location over the central US, but GOES-18’s early successes allowed NOAA to move it to its future operational location early. GOES-18 began sending imagery from its new location in June.
Now that GOES-18 is operating as GOES-West, GOES-17 will be moved to a central location between GOES-East and GOES-West to serve as a backup for the operational constellation.
The GOES-R Series Program is a four-satellite mission that includes GOES-R (GOES-16, launched in 2016), GOES-S (GOES-17, launched in 2018), GOES-T (GOES-18) and GOES-U, which is scheduled to launch in 2024. The program is a collaborative effort between NOAA and NASA.
GOES-R Series satellites are planned to operate into the 2030s. NOAA and NASA have already begun work on the next-generation geostationary mission called Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO). The US Department of Commerce formally approved the GeoXO Program on December 14, 2022.