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HomeGOES Satellite


 National Hydrologic Warning Council

Executive Program Committee



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NOAA GOES Satellite Program

 (courtesy Wikipedia and NOAA-NESDIS)


The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (or GOES) program is a key element in United States' National Weather Service (NWS) operations. GOES weather imagery and quantitative sounding data are a continuous and reliable stream of environmental information used to support weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, and meteorological research. Evolutionary improvements in the geostationary satellite system since 1974 (the launch of the first Synchronous Meteorological Satellite, SMS-1) have been responsible for making the current GOES system the basic element for U.S. weather monitoring and forecasting. Spacecraft and ground-based systems work together to accomplish the GOES mission.



Four GOES satellites are currently available for operational use:

  • GOES-10 is currently located at 60°W and provides coverage of South America
  • GOES-11 is designated GOES-West, currently located at 135°W over the Pacific Ocean.
  • GOES-12 is designated GOES-East, currently located at 75°W over the Amazon River. It provides most of the U.S. weather information.
  • GOES-13 is in on-orbit storage at 105°W.
  • GOES 14 was placed in orbit on 7 July 2009 and is undergoing Post-Launch Testing until December 2009 and then will be placed in on-orbit storage.

Several GOES satellites are still in orbit, either inactive or re-purposed.




Designed to operate in geostationary orbit, 35,790 km (22,240 statute miles) above the earth, thereby remaining stationary with respect to a point on the ground, the advanced GOES I–M spacecraft continuously view the continental United States, neighboring environs of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and Central, South America and southern Canada. The three-axis, body-stabilized spacecraft design enables the sensors to "stare" at the earth and thus more frequently image clouds, monitor earth's surface temperature and water vapour fields, and sound the atmosphere for its vertical thermal and vapor structures. Thus the evolution of atmospheric phenomena can be followed, ensuring real-time coverage of short-lived dynamic events, especially severe local storms and tropical cyclones—two meteorological events that directly affect public safety, protection of property, and ultimately, economic health and development. The importance of this capability has been exemplified during hurricanes Hugo (1989) and Andrew (1992).


The GOES I–M series of spacecraft are the principal observational platforms for covering such dynamic weather events and the near-earth space environment for the 1990s and into the 21st century. These advanced spacecraft enhance the capability of the GOES system to continuously observe and measure meteorological phenomena in real time, providing the meteorological community and atmospheric scientists greatly improved observational and measurement data of the Western Hemisphere. In addition to short-term weather forecasting and space environmental monitoring, these enhanced operational services also improve support for atmospheric science research, numerical weather prediction models, and environmental sensor design and development. Data is received via the NOAA Command and Data Acquisition ground station at Wallops Island, Virginia. The GOES satellites are controlled from the Satellite Operations Control Center (SOCC) located in Suitland, Maryland. During significant weather or other events the normal schedules can be altered to provide coverage requested by the National Weather Service and other agencies




The main mission is carried out by the primary payload instruments, the Imager and the Sounder. The Imager is a multichannel instrument that senses infrared radiant energy and visible reflected solar energy from the Earth's surface and atmosphere. The Sounder provides data for vertical atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles, surface and cloud top temperature, and ozone distribution.


Other instruments on board the spacecraft are the ground-based meteorological platform data collection and relay, and the space environment monitor. The latter consists of a magnetometer, an X-ray sensor, a high energy proton and alpha detector, and an energetic particles sensor, all used for in-situ surveying of the near-earth space environment. Satellites numbered 12 and greater also carry a solar imager, although none of these imagers is currently active.


In addition, the GOES satellites carry Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) receivers, which are used for search-and-rescue purposes by the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center


Future of GOES Program


The GOES-R series of spacecraft is in the development phase. The first GOES-R series satellite is scheduled for launch in fiscal year 2015 and is expected to remain operational through December 2027.


In September 2006 the Hyperspectral Environmental Suite (HES) was cancelled and the planned number of satellites was reduced from 4 to 2 by NOAA due to concerns about cost overruns. The planned delivery schedule was also slowed down in order to reduce costs. Contracts are planned to be awarded sometime in mid-2009. The expected cost is $7.69 billion—a $670 million increase from the prior $7 billion estimate.[20]


History/status of GOES satellites 

  • GOES 1, launched on October 16, 1975, decommissioned
  • GOES 2, launched on June 16, 1977, decommissioned
  • GOES 3, launched on June 16, 1978, used as a communications relay for the South Pole research station.
  • GOES 4, launched on September 9, 1980, decommissioned
  • GOES 5, launched on May 22, 1981, deactivated on July 18, 1990
  • GOES 6 , launched on April 28, 1983, decommissioned
  • GOES-G, launched on May 3, 1986, failed to orbit
  • GOES 7, launched April 28, 1987, used as a communications satellite by Peacesat
  • GOES 8, launched on April 13, 1994, decommissioned
  • GOES 9, launched on May 23, 1995, decommissioned on June 15, 2007
  • GOES 10, launched on April 25]], 1997, in operation
  • GOES 11, launched on May 3, 2000, in operation
  • GOES 12, launched on July 23, 2001, in operation
  • GOES 13, launched on May 24, 2006, on orbit - in storage
  • GOES 14, launched on June 27, 2009, on orbit - undergoing check-out testing

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