After eighteen years in the making and billions of dollars spent, a fourth and final weather satellite from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations, meant to protect the United States nears its final stage before launch.
For the first time, GOES-U will be launched aboard a SPACE X Falcon Heavy. The total cost for NASA to launch GOES-U is approximately $152.5 million. Launch scheduled for April 2024 from KSC 39A. Each of the GOES Satellites are designed for 5 years of orbital storage and 10+ years of operational use.
UPDATE 09/14/203 NOAA’s GOES-U has completed all environmental testing. GOES-U is on track for an April 2024 launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida onboard a Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. The satellite will be renamed GOES-19 once it reaches geostationary orbit, approximately two weeks after launch. GOES-19 will then undergo an on-orbit checkout of its instruments and systems, followed by validation of the satellite’s data products. Most recently, the team conducted testing to verify commands with the new Compact Coronagraph-1 (CCOR-1) instrument. CCOR-1 is a new space weather instrument that will fly on GOES-U and image the solar corona (the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere) to detect and characterize coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
Where will GOES U be positioned?
There are currently no provisions for a three-satellite constellation in the GOES-R series, that may change for the GEO-XO program. But, because of the new CCOR-1 Instrument, NOAA is eager to get GOES-U tested and running as soon as possible so that they have access to the new space weather instrument. At the 2nd quarterly NOAA user group meeting in the summer of 2023, it was stated that GOES-U most will likely replace GOES-16 and serve as the primary GOES-East satellite in the orbital position of 75.2°W as GOES-19. GOES-16 would then be drifted slightly and serve as an On-Orbit spare in the same way as GOES-17 replaced GOES-15 as the On-Orbit spare for the Western position.
UPDATE 07/20/203 GOES-U, the fourth and final satellite in NOAA’s GOES-R Series, recently completed a successful test deployment of its solar array to ensure it will function properly in space.
This critical test verified that the satellite’s large, five-panel solar array — which is folded up when the satellite is launched — will properly deploy when GOES-U reaches geostationary orbit. During this test, engineers unfurled the five panels on rails that simulated the zero-gravity environment of space. Each solar panel is approximately 13 feet tall by 4.5 feet wide and weighs approximately 45 pounds.
Once GOES-U reaches orbit, the deployed solar panels will form a single solar array wing that will rotate once per day to continuously point its photovoltaic (solar) cells toward the sun. The photovoltaic cells will convert energy from the sun into electricity to power the entire satellite, including the instruments, computers, data processors, sensors, and telecommunications equipment. The solar array will generate more than 5,000 watts of power for the satellite. This is equivalent to the power needed to run a central air conditioning system in your home.
The solar array was developed and built by Lockheed Martin at its Sunnyvale, California, facility and tested at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Littleton, Colorado, where GOES-U was assembled. GOES-U is scheduled to launch in April 2024. “Most of the planned work will be done by mid-October of this year,” said Iowa native Matt Kettering, the GOES ATLO Mechanical Manager at Lockheed.
FALCON HEAVY LAUNCH VEHICLE SPECIFICATION
Falcon Heavy is composed of three reusable Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft. As one of the world’s most powerful operational rockets, Falcon Heavy can lift nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lbs) to orbit.
- Height: 229.6 feet (70 meters)
- Mass: 3,125,735 pounds (1,420,788 kilograms)
The fourth satellite in NOAA’s GOES-R Series, GOES-U, recently had a new instrument installed. Called a Compact Coronagraph, this is a copy of the Naval Research Laboratory‘s Compact CORonagraph (CCOR) instrument which, along with the CCOR planned for Space Weather Follow On-Lagrange 1 (SWFO-L1), which will allow continuous monitoring of solar wind after the retirement of the NASA-ESA SOHO satellite in 2025. This will be the first time it has been installed on any GOES spacecraft.
“For (GOES)-U, on our sun pointing platform, the GOES team had to go redesign the whole platform and change where you’re putting boxes, change where you’re putting harnesses,” said Iowa native Matt Kettering, the GOES ATLO Mechanical Manager at Lockheed. “We had a mock-up that we did and we worked through spacing, we worked on testing, all well in advance of actually getting the instrument here and putting it on.”
GOES-15 (2010-Current) EWS-G1
GOES-17 (2018-Current) EWS-G2
GOES-U (Planned April 2024)