essage From The Under Secretary
Message From the Under Secretary

July 8, 2009

3 … 2 … 1 … GOES-O!

Launch of GOES-O satellite.If you were near Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 6:51 p.m. EDT on June 27, you may have witnessed the successful launch of the GOES-O satellite, NOAA’s newest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES).

GOES-O was renamed GOES-14 today, when it reached its final position in orbit.

Hovering at a fixed position 22,500 miles into space, GOES-14 carries newly enhanced instrumentation included in the GOES N-O-P series that captures high-definition images — from the seas to the skies — of severe weather patterns and atmospheric conditions. Those images will help NOAA’s National Weather Service meteorologists develop more accurate forecasts and warnings for hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and even disruptive solar disturbances, which threaten the Western Hemisphere.

After six months of tests, GOES-14 will join GOES-13 in what’s known as orbital storage, where it will remain until one of the currently operational satellites (GOES-11 and GOES-12) experiences trouble, nears the end of its mission life (typically five years), or depletes its onboard fuel and is officially retired.

This caching of satellites is NOAA’s way of keeping fresh satellites at the ready, so that monitoring remains uninterrupted — something the agency has been doing since 1974, says Gary K. Davis, director of the Office of Systems Development for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service (NESDIS).

Once a satellite successfully completes its orbital tests, the NESDIS Office of Satellite Operations takes over command and control from NASA, which develops and launches NOAA’s satellites. NESDIS’s satellite products — which encompass much of the environmental satellite data for the United States — are developed by the Office of Satellite Data Processing and Distribution and NESDIS's Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR), and distributed to forecasters at NWS, to other NOAA line offices and to users worldwide. GOES products are archived at the NOAA Data Centers.

The GOES-0 launch is the second liftoff of a NOAA satellite this year. In February, the NOAA-19 satellite was thrust into orbit. NOAA-19 and its predecessor, NOAA-18, are Polar Operational Environmental Satellites (POES), which continuously orbit the planet from Pole to Pole. By flying at a height of 540 miles — significantly lower than the GOES satellites — POES satellites can detect more subtle changes in atmospheric and oceanic conditions that can trigger tropical storms, droughts, inland floods, and forest fires. POES data are used for longer-range forecasts, and are especially integral to NOAA’s research on climate change.

NOAA Satellites: Not Just About Weather

Data from the agency’s satellites provide significant contributions beyond weather monitoring.

When distress signals are issued by emergency beacons in airplanes, boats and hand-held devices, GOES and POES — as part of the International Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system — swiftly locate the signals and relay them to NOAA’s Satellite Operations Control Center in Suitland, Md. From there, signals are sent to either the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Air Force, depending on whether they require sea or air rescues.

NOAA satellites had a hand in 283 rescues in the United States in 2008 alone, and more than 6,100 since SARSAT’s inception in 1982.

The same GOES data that power NWS forecasts are also integrated into oceanographic circulation models and ecological forecasts used by scientists with NOAA’s National Ocean Service. NOAA Fisheries uses sea-surface temperature data from GOES and POES, for example, to assess coral reef patterns.

As higher-quality satellite data emerge, NESDIS's Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR) is continually seeking new ways of packaging this data into better products and services.

As Steve Kirkner, NOAA’s GOES program manager, says, “Whether you’re building a ship or a satellite, both serve as platforms for NOAA’s scientific instruments that, in the end, generate valuable data for decision makers and the research community at large.”

The importance of NOAA’s robust satellite program cannot be overstated. I thank all NOAA personnel who are helping maintain these critical observing assets and taking our satellite program to new heights.

You can learn more about GOES, POES and the full portfolio of NOAA satellites by visiting:


jane lubchenco signature
Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

This message was generated for the Under Secretary of Commerce
for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator by the NOAA
Information Technology Center/Financial and Administrative
Computing Division


Paul A. Sisson
Science and Operations Officer

National Weather Service
1200 Airport Drive
S. Burlington, VT 05403-6028
802-922-9136 (direct)
< 802-862-2475 Ext. 224