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New high-tech weather satellite getting ready for West Coast debut

GOES-17’s Advanced Baseline Imager captured this view of Earth’s Western Hemisphere from its checkout position (89.5°W) at 12:00 p.m. EDT, May 20, 2018. (NASA/NOAA Image)

A long wait for West Coast meteorologists to get fancy new weather satellite coverage is another step closer to being over.

NASA launched the new high-tech GOES-17 weather satellite in March and has been undergoing diagnostics over the East Coast ever since. But now those tests are nearly complete and the satellite will begin its trek west and move over to its permanent home at 137.2 degrees west longitude where it will provide excellent high-definition coverage over the Western United States.

The shift will begin on Oct. 24 and it will take about 3 weeks to drift over to its new spot. As it does so, most of its instruments will be turned off. Once it reaches its new spot on Nov. 13, the satellite will undergo three more weeks of calibrations and tests before becoming officially operational on Dec. 10...and it will be an early Christmas present for weather forecasters as it will usher in a new era of high definition weather data, much like the East Coast has been enjoying for over a year with the successful GOES-16 launch.

Alaska will be among those to benefit the most.

“With GOES-17, we will have unprecedented coverage of Alaska from geostationary orbit. The GOES-17 imager has four times the resolution of the previous GOES imager, which will make a substantial difference in northern latitudes,” said Dan Lindsey, senior scientific advisor to the GOES-R Series Program. “GOES-17 is going to provide significant benefit for monitoring hazards often experienced in Alaska such as wildfires, volcanic ash, snow and sea ice.”

Meanwhile, our current weather satellite, GOES-15, will scoot over to the east just a little to make room, but it's not heading to retirement just yet. There have been some well-documented cooling issues with the new satellite so GOES-15 will work in tandem with GOES-17 for another six months providing backup coverage as scientists still work to see how the issues will affect GOES-17.

“The GOES-17 ABI is now projected to deliver more than 97 percent of the data it was designed to provide, a remarkable recovery,” said Pam Sullivan, System Program Director for the GOES-R Series Program. “We are confident the GOES constellation will continue to meet the needs of forecasters across the country.”

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