The weather satellite we’ve been anticipating for years has been delayed by a hurricane. This is why we can’t have nice things.
GOES-R is NOAA’s next satellite. It really needs to get into space. The satellites that currently look down at our hurricanes and severe weather are at the end of their life spans. Plus, GOES-R has a lot of fancy new features that meteorologists are pretty excited about.
The launch of GOES-R, which had been scheduled for Nov. 4, has been delayed. No new date was announced in NOAA’s statement, except to say it won’t happen before Nov. 16. United Launch Alliance says that the new date is Nov. 16, pending Air Force approval.
NOAA blames Hurricane Matthew for the setback, which passed very close to Cape Canaveral two weeks ago. Apparently, it has somehow affected the “launch infrastructure” at the site. The actual satellite is totally fine, resting peacefully in its clean room at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Fla.
After the storm, Cape Canaveral operations were temporarily halted, but it wasn’t clear if or how long GOES-R would be delayed. Numerous buildings were damaged in and around Cape Canaveral, Spaceflight Insider reported.
Statement from NOAA:
NOAA continues to work with its partners — NASA, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing — to assess the infrastructure and facilities necessary to launch GOES-R following Hurricane Matthew. Additional assessments are underway to fully understand the storm’s impact. Before Matthew, the launch date was set for November 4, 2016. Once Matthew passed, the launch team began an initial assessment of the launch infrastructure and determined that a move of the launch date is needed based on the storm’s impacts. ULA, for planning purposes, requested a new range date of no earlier than November 16, pending approval by the 45th Space Wing. Throughout the storm, the GOES-R spacecraft remained safe inside Astrotech Space Operations, in Titusville, Fla. NOAA will provide an update as new details become available.
As we’ve written before, GOES-R satellite has six instruments, two of which are weather-related. The Advanced Baseline Imager, developed by Harris Corp., is the “camera” that looks down on Earth. The pictures it sends back will be clearer and more detailed than what’s created by the current satellites.
The ABI can scan half the Earth — or the “full disk” — in five minutes. If forecasters want to home in on an area of severe weather, it can scan that region every 30 seconds. Weather radars can’t even scan faster than six minutes.
The other weather instrument, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, will continuously track and transmit all lightning strikes across North America and its surrounding oceans. Developed by Lockheed, it can detect the changes in light on Earth and thus the rate and intensity of lightning in thunderstorms and hurricanes.
Note: The original version of this story incorrectly named the Geostationary Lightning Mapper the “Global Lightning Mapper,” which, of course, is impossible. Since it’s geostationary and it stays in one place.