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US weather satellite's launch promises 'quantum leap' in forecasts

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2016-11-20 13:01:15 BdST

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An Atlas V rocket with NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-R), lifts off at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US, Nov 19, 2016. Reuters

A US weather satellite that will "revolutionise" forecasting blasted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral on Saturday, promising to deliver continuous high-definition views of hurricanes and other storms over the Western Hemisphere.

A detailed stream of images provided by the satellite is expected to sharpen weather forecasts, provide more advanced warning of floods and better tracking of wildfires, plumes and volcanic ash clouds.

Carried atop an Atlas 5 rocket, the GOES-R satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:42 pm local time.

The launch was delayed an hour to resolve a technical issue with the rocket, developed by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, said NASA launch commentator Mike Curie. A second, unrelated issue also contributed to the delay.

Once in position 35,888 km above the equator, GOES-R is designed to take a complete picture of the hemisphere every five minutes while simultaneously zooming in on specific regions to monitor fires, volcanic eruptions, heavy rainfall and storms.

It is the first of four satellites in a system upgrade that will cost $11 billion, including launch fees, said NOAA Assistant Administrator Stephen Volz. The next satellite is slated for launch in 2018.

GOES, along with a second, polar-orbiting weather satellite network operated by NOAA, has faced cost overruns and program delays due to technical issues and mismanagement, according to a December 2015 US Government Accountability Office report.

Once in orbit, the new satellite will undergo about 11 months of testing before it joins the operational fleet, which now numbers three units, NOAA said.