In March, engineers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems lifted NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) into a thermal vacuum chamber to begin testing its ability to function in the cold void of space at its orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth. To simulate the environment of space, researchers removed air from the chamber and cooled it below -100°C.
Inside the chamber, the satellite will experience four cycles of extreme cold to extreme heat over a period of 45 days. The test simulates the temperature changes GOES-S will encounter in space, as well as worst case scenarios of whether the instruments can come back to life in case of a shutdown that exposes them to even colder temperatures. As of March 30, two of four thermal cycles were complete.
GOES-S is the second in the GOES-R series. The GOES-R program is a collaborative development and acquisition effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA. The GOES-R series of satellites will help meteorologists observe and predict local weather events, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, fog, flash floods and other severe weather. In addition, the satellites will monitor hazards such as aerosols, dust storms, volcanic eruptions, and forest fires and will also be used for space weather, oceanography, climate monitoring, in-situ data collection and for search and rescue. GOES-16, the first satellite in the series, began transmitting its first images earlier this year and will soon be placed in its final orbit.