Tuesday, November 1, 2016

GOES-R Weather Satellites and the Challenges In Reaching Orbit

In today’s world, technology is improving at a rapid pace.  Many opportunities are available to take advantage of all the information that is available with this new technology. The new generation of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) is headed into orbit in 2016.  While these new satellites will be useful once in orbit, it is important that force and torque testing is done to make sure these satellites can handle the launch process, and will be able to operate in the space environment.

What is the GOES-R?

The GOES-R is the latest in a long line of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For over 40 years, the GOES have provided imagery and data of atmospheric conditions and space weather, covering the Western hemisphere. Unfortunately, that means that the GOES are also operating with outdated technology – in fact, there hasn’t been a major advancement since 1994. The GOES-R changes all that, utilizing a new imager that provides more information, more coverage, and improved resolution, with images as frequently as every 30 seconds for major weather events.

How Will GOES-R Data Help Us?

GOES-R will allow us to collect and analyze data for frequently and accurately, and allow for better evaluation and prediction of weather. This can include:

  • Short-term weather forecasts and sever storm warnings and watches
  • Maritime weather forecasts
  • Drought outlooks
  • Improved hurricane, tornado, and thunderstorm tracking in order to provide advanced lead times for warnings.
  • Collecting data for long-term climate variability studies

This can lead to everything from improving flight routes to avoid weather-related delays, to helping warmers evaluate crops and production, up to saving lives by providing extra time to find safety during major weather events.

What Challenges Do the Satellites Have to Overcome?

Sending a satellite into space isn’t easy.  The challenges in getting an object out of the earth’s atmosphere and through its orbit are numerous. Going back to the earliest days of NASA, the complex array of materials, components, and assembly methods made the difference between a successful launch and a failure. In particular, force and torque measurement are frequently employed to gauge the performance of materials, components, and manufactured assemblies, such as bearings, cables, fasteners, and more. Proper testing is critical; once a satellite is launched, it cannot be brought back to Earth for maintenance.

At Mark-10 we have a long history of providing force and torque measurement solutions to the aerospace industry.  Our products have been used in many applications, including some interesting case studies such as measuring mass in a weightless environment.  Proper testing before lift-off can ensure that these GOES-R satellites will perform well, now and into the future.

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