The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES-T satellite in a clean room at Lockheed Martin. Credit: Lockheed Martin

SAN FRANCISCO – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will move its next Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) weather satellite into position over the Western United States soon after launch to speed up data delivery to the National Weather Service.

The GOES-T satellite, scheduled to launch March 1 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, will be renamed GOES-18 after launch.

After the rocket drops off GOES-T in geostationary transfer orbit, the satellite will spend about three weeks moving to geostationary orbit, Pam Sullivan NOAA GOES-R program director, said Jan. 25 at the virtual American Meteorological Society annual meeting. NOAA will perform the initial GOES-T checkout at orbital slot located 89.5 west.

“Then in May, we will actually drift the spacecraft to the West location and complete the post-launch testing near GOES-17 on the West Coast,” Sullivan said.

Usually, GOES satellites spend about six months in their initial geostationary orbital slot before moving into position as GOES East or GOES West. For GOES-T, NOAA is moving more quickly because National Weather Service meteorologists want to obtain data from the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager “as soon as they possibly can to help backfill for some of the data that GOES-17 loses when it gets into the warm periods,” Sullivan said.

Soon after launching GOES-17 in 2018, NOAA discovered a blockage in the loop heat pipe that restricted the flow of coolant to the satellites primary instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager. Engineers worked to mitigate the problems, but the corrective measures decreased the satellite’s lifespan.

When the GOES-17 ABI problem was detected, GOES-T prime contractor Lockheed Martin had already had installed ABI on GOES-T. The instrument was removed and sent back to manufacturer L3Harris’ facility.

L3Harris “worked with their team to design a new radiator with new loop heat pipes that were installed on the instrument,” Sullivan said.

Once GOES-18 is operational, GOES-17 will move into orbital storage as a backup weather satellite. The final satellite in the four-satellites GOES-R series, GOES-U, is currently scheduled to launch in April 2024.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...