NOAA’s GOES-T satellite executed its final engine burn on March 14, placing the satellite in geostationary orbit 22,236 miles above Earth. Upon reaching this milestone, GOES-T was renamed GOES-18.
NOAA’s GOES-T satellite launched on March 1, 2022, lifting off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The satellite launched on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, which was managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center.
GOES-T mission managers confirmed that its solar arrays successfully deployed at 8:28pm EST that same day, and that the satellite was operating on its own power.
The launch vehicle delivered GOES-T to a geostationary transfer orbit, a highly elliptical orbit where the satellite is close to the Earth during one part of its orbit and far from the Earth on the opposite side. Placing GOES-T in a geostationary transfer orbit provides the satellite a path to reach its final geostationary orbit over the equator. After a series of orbit-raising maneuvers and engine burns, on March 14, GOES-T was delivered into a circular geostationary orbit. The satellite is now in position to orbit at the same rate Earth rotates, so it can keep constant watch over the same region.
GOES-18 will now perform its second stage solar array deployment, releasing the solar array. The deployed solar panels will form a single solar array wing that will rotate once per day to continuously point its photovoltaic cells toward the sun.
In the days that follow, several maneuvers will be conducted to put GOES-T in its 89.5° west longitude initial checkout position, between the operational GOES-East and GOES-West satellites. Then, the magnetometer boom will be deployed. The satellite will then begin on-orbit checkout and validation of its instruments and systems.
NOAA expects to see the first images from GOES-18 in May. The satellite will then drift west to 136.8° west longitude and finish post-launch testing. NOAA plans for GOES-18 to take over as the operational GOES-West satellite in early 2023, replacing GOES-17, which will become the on-orbit backup.
GOES-18 will track destructive wildfires, lightning, Pacific Ocean-based storms, dense fog, and other hazards that threaten the US West Coast, Hawaii and Alaska. It will also monitor solar activity and space weather to provide early warnings of disruptions to power grids, communications and navigation systems.