NASA Prepares to Launch GOES-U Weather Satellite with Advanced Solar Monitoring Capabilities

By Lydia Amazouz Published on June 19, 2024 10:30
Nasa Prepares To Launch Goes-U Weather Satellite With Advanced Solar Monitoring Capabilities

NASA is set to launch the GOES-U satellite, the latest addition to the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) series, which will enhance weather monitoring for Earth and space.

Scheduled for June 25, 2024, this mission aims to provide critical data for weather forecasting and solar activity monitoring.

The Significance of NASA's GOES-U Launch

The GOES-U satellite will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This satellite is the final addition to the GOES-R series and will play a vital role in providing continuous weather coverage for the Western Hemisphere, including monitoring tropical systems in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The GOES satellites are crucial for issuing timely warnings and forecasts to protect the one billion people who live and work in the Americas.

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Enhanced Solar Monitoring with Compact Coronagraph-1

One of the key features of the GOES-U satellite is the inclusion of the Naval Research Laboratory's Compact Coronagraph-1 (CCOR-1). This advanced instrument will image the outer layer of the Sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, to detect and characterize coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These solar events can have significant impacts on space weather, affecting satellites, power grids, and communication systems on Earth.

Compact Coronagraph 1

Bill Murtagh, program coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center, emphasized the importance of the coronagraph: "Coronagraph images are vital for us to detect the CME, measure it, put the information into a model, and from the model predict the arrival if it's going to impact Earth." He added: "The coronagraph we've been relying on (LASCO) is not available a lot of times because it's a research instrument. It's a single point of failure so, if it's gone tomorrow, we would be in a bad situation."

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Elsayed Talaat, NOAA's Director of the Office of Space Weather Observations, further explained the instrument's capabilities: "As we see these storms come off the sun, [coronagraphs] tell us that something large is coming towards us and we input the characteristics of that coronal mass ejection into our models and project them out to see if there's going to be an impact here."

Improved Data Transmission and Reliability

The new coronagraph on GOES-U will provide faster and more detailed data on solar activity. Unlike the aging LASCO instrument on the SOHO spacecraft, which can experience significant data transmission delays, CCOR-1 is designed to deliver imagery within 30 minutes of acquisition. This rapid data delivery is crucial for timely space weather forecasts.

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"We will have for the first time the ability to get an artificial eclipse, a total eclipse of the sun, every 30 minutes. That will provide us with a really good capability right now," Talaat highlighted. He added that the new instrument is built to reduce impacts that could be associated with bigger solar storms, ensuring cleaner and more reliable data.

Preparing for the Launch

NASA will provide live coverage of the GOES-U launch and prelaunch activities. Key events include a science briefing, a NASA Social panel, and a prelaunch news conference. The launch itself is scheduled within a two-hour window starting at 5:16 p.m. EDT on June 25.

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The GOES-U mission underscores the importance of continuous advancements in weather and space weather monitoring technologies. By enhancing our ability to observe and predict solar and atmospheric conditions, this satellite will play a critical role in safeguarding both terrestrial and space-based infrastructure.

Talaat remarked on the critical nature of these observations: "These observations are critical to the Space Weather Prediction Center's (SWPC) capability to warn and forecast. Without these spaceborne observations, we would be blind to where activity is on the sunspots ... we need to make those measurements in space."

These efforts reflect a broader commitment to leveraging advanced technology to improve our understanding of environmental and space weather phenomena, ultimately contributing to more resilient and informed communities.

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