Launch of GOES-R satellite a game-changing moment for weather forecasting

goes r weather satellite launch 30355287434 0cecd02e0c b
NASA
For a few brief moments Saturday night, the meteorological community held its collective breath as United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket took off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. Its payload couldn’t be more important: Aboard was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-R satellite, which represented the beginning of a multiyear effort to revolutionize America’s weather satellite program and future-proof it through 2036.

“The next generation of weather satellites is finally here,” mused NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan. It’s not hyperbole either: Instead of images of the continental United States every 15 minutes, we’ll now get images every five. In severe weather events, local areas would have high-definition imagery available every 30 seconds, something that current GOES satellites cannot do.

This changes the game when it comes to severe weather prediction, according to scientists. Meteorologists would be able to watch the life cycles of storms in incredible detail. “The launch of GOES-R represents a major step forward in terms of our ability to provide more timely and accurate information that is critical for lifesaving weather forecasts and warnings,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate director of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

GOES-R will do more than just produce high-definition satellite imagery for your evening news. The satellite also has the first geostationary lightning mapper in orbit, a big deal for severe weather research. Combined with the quick updating satellite imagery, the ability to show lightning in near real time could help increase tornado lead times.

Recent studies suggest that a sharp increase in lightning activity may precede tornadic activity. While the research is in its infancy, the lightning mapper may provide further evidence of a connection — something researchers hope to use in future severe storm forecasting.

Another area that will see vast improvement is solar monitoring. While the primary aim of GOES-R is to monitor earth-based weather, space weather is an increasingly important topic. Solar flares can disrupt our satellites and communications infrastructure, so having a new line of defense will assist in giving us early warning of potential issues long before they reach Earth.

All in all, some 34 products — either new or vastly improved — will be available to scientists. While the satellite will make its way to its storage point sometime in early December, it won’t be placed into service until later in 2017. It’s unknown at this time whether it will replace GOES-East, which watches the Eastern U.S .and Western Atlantic, or GOES-West, which monitors the Western United States and Eastern Pacific. That decision should come sometime in early 2017, NASA says.

All told, four satellites will be launched as part of the GOES-R ‘series.’ GOES-S is slated to launch in 2018, followed by GOES-T in 2019, and finally GOES-U in 2024. As each new satellite is brought online, older ones will be decommissioned or placed in storage. NASA and NOAA always plan to have at least one satellite in position as a backup in case anything goes wrong.

Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Gaming

Sony could be working on a screen-equipped PlayStation controller

A patent recently granted to Sony seems to point to the company creating a controller with a touchscreen. The patent was filed in 2017 and granted in October 2018, which could mean it is planned for the next PlayStation.
Emerging Tech

Rocket Lab steps into spotlight with its first commercial rocket launch

Rocket Lab has deployed multiple small satellites into orbit in its first notable commercial launch. Its New Zealand-born boss said the success means "rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites."
Photography

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.
Computing

Hacker infects 100K routers in latest botnet attack aimed at sending email spam

An attacker is trying to infect your router with malware in order to send spam emails. If your router uses a Broadcom UPnP SDK, it could become vulnerable to this attack. So far, 100,000 routers worldwide have been infected.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

‘Bionic mushroom’ can generate electricity without using fossil fuels

Researchers have come up with a way to produce electricity without fossil fuels using mushrooms covered with bacteria. The mushroom provides a safe environment for special cyanobacteria that generate electricity when light is shone on them.
Emerging Tech

Curiosity rover active and drilling again after computer issue

The Curiosity rover has succeeded in drilling a hole into the tough bedrock that previously defeated it, allowing imaging and collection of samples. The rover had been incapacitated for a few weeks due to problems with its computer.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover two rogue planets that do not orbit a star

Astronomers have identified two rogue planets in our galaxy which do not orbit around a star. Unlike the vast majority of discovered planets, these rogue planets drift through space alone with no sun to shine on them.
Emerging Tech

Pairs of supermassive black holes spotted in colliding galaxies

Astronomers have discovered several pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies that are colliding with each other. These black holes will spiral closer and closer together and eventually merge into one supermassive black hole.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.
Emerging Tech

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale smashes online shopping records

The annual online shopping frenzy that is Singles' Day this year raked in $30.8 billion, up from $25 billion last time around. The Alibaba-organized event generates more in sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.