An advanced environmental satellite equipped with instruments to monitor Earth's weather and with a telescope that will be used to detect solar storms soared into space this morning at 3:23:01 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
The satellite, GOES-M, will monitor hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, flash floods and other severe weather. It is the first of the GOES satellites equipped with a Solar X-ray Imager which will be used to forecast earth space weather due to solar activity.
NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-M spacecraft was carried into space aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas IIA rocket. Twenty-seven minutes later, the spacecraft separated from the Centaur stage. At approximately 4:40 a.m., controllers successfully deployed the outer panel of the solar array, making the spacecraft power positive.
"We're off to a great start," said Martin Davis, GOES project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "The spacecraft is now in transfer orbit and all data indicates we have a healthy spacecraft."
The spacecraft is a three-axis internally stabilized weather spacecraft that has the dual capability of providing pictures while performing atmospheric sounding at the same time. Once in geostationary orbit, the spacecraft is to be designated GOES-12.
Throughout the next 17 days, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) controllers are scheduled to perform several apogee motor firings and adjust maneuvers, culminating with the spacecraft arriving in a geosynchronous orbit 22,240 miles (35,790 kilometers) above the Earth's equator at 90 degrees West Longitude. Controllers will operate the spacecraft from the NOAA's Satellite Operations Control Center in Suitland, Md.
The first of several burns to move the spacecraft into its final orbit begin approximately 20 hours after liftoff, when controllers perform the first apogee motor firing, lasting for 53 minutes. The second firing is scheduled for approximately four days after liftoff and will last for 30 minutes.
The third and final apogee motor firing is scheduled for approximately six days after liftoff, and will last for approximately six minutes. Apogee is the point at which a spacecraft is farthest from the Earth and at its minimum velocity. Apogee burns are designed to boost GOES-M from its transfer orbit to geosynchronous orbit.
The primary objective of the GOES-M launch is to provide a fully capable spacecraft in on-orbit storage, which can be activated on short notice to assure continuity of services from a two-spacecraft constellation.
GOES-M was built and launched for NOAA under technical guidance and project management by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
The images taken by the Solar X-ray Imager will be available in real time to the general public via the World Wide Web, through NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colo. When available, the images will be at: http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/stp/stp.html