NOAA 2001-081
Contact: Pat Viets


The nation's most advanced satellite to detect harmful solar flares and gather data on daily weather and severe storms in the United States was launched at 3:23 this morning by the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite was launched aboard an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The GOES-M satellite is the fifth of five advanced weather satellites operated by NOAA and designed to help improve forecasting of Earth's weather and space weather. GOES-M is the first to have a sophisticated operational instrument for detecting solar storms.

"The GOES-M satellite is much more than our latest weather sentinel in the heavens," said Scott Gudes, acting administrator of NOAA. "It will give our space weather forecasters the tools to better detect the sun's solar storms and predict how these solar flares might impact power grids and electronic systems on Earth, thanks to a new instrument called a solar X-ray imager -- the most advanced instrument of its kind.

The solar X-ray imager will take a full and detailed snapshot of the sun's atmosphere each minute. The images will be used by NOAA and the U.S. Air Force to forecast the intensity and speed of solar disturbances that could destroy satellite electronics, disrupt long-distance radio communications or surge power grids. The imager enables forecasters to better protect billions of dollars worth of commercial and government assets in space and on the ground.

In addition to solar flare warnings, the GOES-M will become a workhouse satellite for NOAA. It will be stored on orbit until needed as a replacement for GOES-8 or -10, the current GOES satellites. The real-time weather data gathered by NOAA's GOES satellites, combined with data from the agency's Doppler radars on the ground and automated surface observing systems, greatly aids weather forecasters in providing better warnings of thunderstorms, winter storms, flash floods, hurricanes, and other severe weather. These warnings help to save lives, preserve property, and benefit commercial interests.

It will take 17 days for the GOES-M to reach geostationary orbit, and will then be named GOES-12. It will then undergo a series of tests before completing its checkout phase in about three months. GOES satellites orbit the equatorial plane of the Earth at a speed matching the Earth's rotation. This allow them to hover continuously over one position on the surface. The geostationary orbit is usually reached at about 22,300 miles above the Earth, high enough to allow the satellites a full-disc view of the Earth.

The United States operates two meteorological satellites in geostationary orbit over the equator, one over the East Coast and one over the West Coast. NOAA GOES-10, launched in 1997, is currently overlooking the West Coast out into the Pacific including Hawaii; it is located at 135 degrees west longitude. NOAA GOES-8, launched in April 1994, is overlooking the East Coast out into the Atlantic Ocean and is positioned at 75 degrees west.

NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service operates the GOES series of satellites. After the satellites complete on-orbit checkout, NOAA assumes responsibility for command and control, data receipt, and product generation and distribution.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the design, development and launch of the spacecraft. NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for government oversight of launch operations and the management of countdown activities. NOAA's Systems Acquisition Office provides programmatic and acquisition guidelines to both Goddard and Kennedy.

GOES-M, built by Space Systems/Loral, a subsidiary of Loral Space and Communications Ltd., was launched on an Atlas IIA rocket, built by Lockheed Martin. The mission was conducted by International Launch Services. The on-board meteorological instruments for GOES-M include an imager and a sounder manufactured by ITT under a subcontract to Space Systems/Loral.

Editors' Note:

Internet Sites on GOES are:

GOES information and imagery are available at:
Launch information is at: