28 September 2017
GOES-16 will become the new GOES-EAST satellite late this year as the old GOES-13 is retired. We knew this move was coming but NOAA has just announced the details of the move. Currently, the new GOES-16 is over the equator south of the central U.S. At this checkout location, it can just barely see the edge of Africa, but it gives very good coverage to the western U.S. Once the move happens, the west coast will still be in view, (although at a high angle) and this will be the case until the new GOES-S is launched hopefully later next year.
So Why Move It?
We need two satellites to get a good view of storms in the Pacific along with developing hurricanes in the Atlantic, so putting GOES-16 where the old GOES is now we will have continuous coverage from India through Europe and all the way to Japan using the European, U.S. and the Japanese Himawari satellites. The new position for GOES-16 will actually give us a more direct look at storms along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. this winter, with better coverage for Canada and South America.
In the past when a satellite was moved, we would still get images, but this time the imager and other equipment on GOES-16 will be put in standby mode. This means we will be relying again on the old GOES-13 ( 4 images an hour vs 12). We will also lose the greater resolution and one-minute imagery when needed. This outage will begin at 18 GMT on 30 November and continue through 11 December. It will then take three days for calibration with images back on 14 December. These dates were chosen because hurricane season ends on the 30th and the main brunt of winter is usually after mid-December.
It has to be done and while we meteorologists will whimper for 15 days, there is no doubt that GOES-16 has already paid for itself many times over. Just ask Irma, Maria, and Harvey.
To move the satellite they will slow it down very slightly, which will drop it into a lower orbit that will take less than 23 hours 56 minutes and 47 seconds (It takes the Earth that time to revolve once.). This will cause it to drift slowly eastward (at a rate of 1.41 degrees of longitude per day) until another thruster fire puts it back at an altitude where it will rotate as the earth does. It will then appear to be hover over the same spot all the time, even though it’s moving over 9 km a second. It could be done more quickly but that would use more fuel.
While almost everyone has an app on their smart-phone with radar, meteorologists rely heavily on satellite imagery for forecasting. We will desperately miss this data for 15 days, but it must be done. You can get GOES-16 data free on your iPhone by going to the app store and searching for SSEC GOES UW-Madison. EVERY synoptic meteorologist I know has this app!
The official notice from NOAA is below: