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  • Satellite proves its worth

Photonics Spectra
Oct 2009
Rebecca C. Jernigan,

GREENBELT, Md. – The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system has been expanded by a new satellite, GOES-14. Designed and run by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the goes system provides forecasters with up-to-date information on weather patterns.

Tested by NASA this past summer, GOES-14 is stationed 22,300 miles above the Earth’s surface, at 89.5 west longitude, where it will remain for five months. In late July, it provided its first visible full-disk image of Earth, taken by Imager, a system built by ITT Industries Inc. of Fort Wayne, Ind., that provides 1-km resolution from an altitude of 36,000 km.

This summer, the GOES-14 satellite took its first full-disk visible image of the Earth. Courtesy of the NASA GOES Project.

Although similar in many ways to the GOES-8 through -13 satellites – several of which are still in use – GOES-14 has several upgraded sensors to improve weather detection. By adding an optical bench for its Imager and Sounder, another instrument from ITT Industries, scientists improved image navigation and registration. Previous versions could track 1-km pixels with an accuracy of about 4 km, but GOES-14 can track to 2 km, enabling meteorologists to more accurately track the progress of severe storms and wildfires.

The satellite also carries an improved Imager 13.3-μm channel with 4-km nadir resolution for better monitoring of cloud top products and volcano activity and improved telescope entrance filters on its Solar X-ray Imager (developed by the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory), with automatic flare detection software to prevent the device from staring at damaging solar flares. GOES-14 also restores the solar x-ray sensor capability of the NOAA National Weather Service Space Weather Prediction Center because GOES-10 through -13 satellites have nonfunctional or very degraded x-ray sensors.

Thomas M. Wrublewski, a physical scientist at the NOAA Liaison Office, said that one of the most difficult parts of developing the technology for the satellite was that “there were very tight thermal and mechanical requirements. If you can imagine the error that a slight wiggle in a handheld telescope would make when looking at a far-away planet like Jupiter, you would appreciate the challenges here.”

NASA expects the testing to be completed this winter, at which point control of the satellite will be handed over to NOAA. The latter plans to hold the satellite in orbit on standby until needed.

optical bench
A support for optical parts comprising a solid bed that permits precise longitudinal movement of one component relative to the others, and a number of sliders equipped with holders for lenses, lamps, apertures, eyepieces, ground glass, etc. Scales often are provided to measure the movement of the various sliders. Some special-purpose benches carry a nodal slide and flat-field bar with a microscope carriage for lens testing. Two-dimensional benches have appeared recently that consist of a...
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