DISCUSSION: On Thursday, March 1st, 2018, NASA is scheduled to be launching the GOES-S Satellite by using an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The launch window for the flight is from 5:02 PM to 7:02 PM EST (22:02 to 0:02 UTC). The GOES-S is the newest member of the fourth generation of the GOES Satellite family which started with GOES-R (GOES-16/GOES-East). The GOES satellites are currently being used for satellite imagery to help meteorologists forecast as well as collect data for research including for thunderstorms and cumulonimbus clouds. Among the instruments on board the satellite includes a lightning mapper and a solar imaging suite which covers certain wavelengths of UV and x-ray radiation from the Sun.
The weather conditions for the launch look preferable as the forecast from the NWS office in Melbourne, Florida calls for near-record high temperatures earlier in the afternoon. In addition, light cloud coverage is expected at the time of the launch but will not interfere. The risk of thunderstorms will be minimal as there is going to be about 100 J/kg of CINH (Convective Inhibition), the energy needed to lift an air parcel up to the lifting condensation level adiabatically. The amount of CINH will be strong enough to likely prevent thunderstorms from forming. In addition, a strong westerly dry flow from Central Florida is expected, which would prevent the formation of sea breeze thunderstorms. The rocket, once launched, will have a boost as there will be westerly winds which would help the rocket pitch its angle to be able to get into orbit.
The backup launch date is scheduled for the following day, Friday, March 2nd, 2018. The forecast for the backup date looks to be mostly clear as well with a northerly wind instead of a westerly wind. This is due to a cold front that will be marching across Florida on Thursday and Friday. This backup date is in case there is a technical problem with the Atlas V such as fueling or a malfunction that could not be fixed before the original launch window.
The GOES-S will not be operational for a few months until it parks in its first spot in orbit to test its functions. Once this test is completed, the GOES-S (now GOES-17) will move to its new spot as it prepares to replace the GOES-15 as the GOES-West satellite in late 2018. The GOES-15 will become a spare satellite once it gets replaced as the GOES-West for a few years. This will allow for a backup if GOES-17 has a problem with instrumentation or if it needs to be turned off for a few days or weeks.
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©2018 Meteorologist JP Kalb