Atlas 5 launches GOES-T
An Atlas rocket carries GOES-T into orbit on Tuesday. Courtesy NOAA

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration launched a new satellite Tuesday to monitor weather conditions over the West Coast.

The agency’s third advanced GOES-T satellite blasted into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket at 1:38 p.m. Pacific Time from Cape Canaveral.

The satellite will track destructive wildfires, lightning, Pacific Ocean-based storms, dense fog and other hazards that threaten the West Coast, Hawaii and Alaska.

It will also monitor solar activity and space weather to provide early warnings of disruptions to power grids, communications and navigation systems. 

Once the satellite reaches a geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth, it will be renamed GOES-18. After a full checkout, the satellite will move to the GOES-West position and in 2023 replace GOES-17, which was launched in 2018 but is now experiencing technical problems.

Observations from GOES-18 will be fed into the National Weather Service’s computer models used by meteorologists to develop forecasts and help predict the formation, growth, intensity and movement of hazardous weather systems. 

“NOAA’s geostationary satellite system provides the only continuous coverage of the Western Hemisphere, enabling forecasters to issue warnings to protect the lives and property of the one billion people, who live and work in the Americas,” said Steve Volz, acting assistant secretary for environmental observation and prediction.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.