Can you imagine using a 1990s-era camera, cell phone or a modem today?  No thanks!

But that's what we basically do in the weather world each time we look down at planet Earth from today's satellites, which were indeed built in the 90s.

NOAA's new, fourth generation of satellites, starting with GOES-R, will bring us into the 21st century by providing three times more data at four times better resolution, and it'll do it all five times faster than today.  

GOES stands for geostationary operational environmental satellite.  GOES-R is scheduled for launch on Saturday, Nov. 17.

Five things you should know about GOES-R:

1.  A whopping 3.4 terabytes of data per day will beam back to the surface from an orbit of 22,000 miles over the equator.  GOES-R will transmit more data in the first six months of operation than all previous GOES satellites combined.  It's so much data, in fact, that NOAA had to completely re-engineer it's ground-based receiver and data collection, dissemenation, and storage facilities to accomodate.

2.  The new camera system can take an image of the entire planet every five minutes.  In another mode, when storms are active, GOES-R can zoom in and provide new data as often as every 30 seconds along with a view of the continental U.S. every five minutes (down from 15 minutes today.)

3.  For the first time, GOES will detect lightning from space.  Today's lightning detection network, a ground-based network, only registers cloud-to-ground strikes and only over land.  GOES-R will collect cloud-to-cloud, intra-cloud, and cloud-to-air strikes as well, with coverage over North, Central, and South America in addition to a huge area of the East Pacific and Western Atlantic.  Researchers believe lightning aloft rapidly increases before the development of tornadoes, so NOAA hopes this tool will help increase watch and warning lead time, saving lives and property.

4.  Space weather forecasters will use GOES-R's magnetometor, extreme UV, and x-ray sensors to detect activity on the sun and impact on earth's magnetosphere.  Solar storms are known to cause interference with communication and navigation, so this new data will help forecasters issue watches and warnings with more lead time and accuracy before impact.  GOES-R's solar ultraviolet imager will create full disk solar images around the clock.  

5.  GOES-R includes search and rescue tracking, technology that previously helped save 240 lives across our nation in 2014, as well as a retransmission feed so that anyone with the right equipment can receive GOES-R data.

Earlier this year, Chief Meteorologist Burton Fitzsimmons attended a workshop on GOES-R and also presented a similar workshop at Austin SummerFest for amateur radio operators and storm spotters.  In the above video, Burton takes us through the instruments that make up GOES-R and tells us what to look forward to.


For more information:

GOES-R Mission website

Reddit GOES-R Ask Me Anything

NOAA's main GOES imagery portal

NASA GOES Weather Satellite Images