FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – November 2016 saw the launch of the newest weather satellite, now known as GOES-16. Last week it started sending back ground-breaking images. The machine responsible for those images was made right here in Fort Wayne at Harris Corporation. It’s called the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) and has been a work in progress since 2004. In fact, some people at Harris have been working on this technology since the 1990s.
Harris made two of these already for Japan, which launched first. Through an agreement with Japan, the United States was able to test the ABI with their equipment before it launched. Harris also made four ABI’s which have already been delivered. The first one, now orbiting the Earth on GOES-16, was delivered in 2013. The other three will be launched with GOES-17, GOES-18, and GOES-19, which is scheduled to launch in 2024. Then Harris will continue to provide support for the ABI through 2039. The imager requires six months of involved support in connection with NASA and NOAA. After the six months, it becomes a “NOAA asset,” and Harris provides less frequent support including troubleshooting and answering questions.
Paul Wloszek is the ABI Program Manager. He explained how this imager is so far beyond any technology that has been put on satellites before. This imager has triple the products of the old imager, meaning meteorologists have access to three times as many types of images. Some of those are things they have never seen before. Wloszek said in talking about the precision and accuracy of the imager, “We can see a tenth of a Kelvin from 22,000 miles out in space. I mean I can’t even take the temperature in my mouth with a thermometer to that accuracy sometimes and we’re doing that from geostationary orbit.” The imager also has four times the spatial resolution, allowing meteorologists to see more detail, and it scans 5 times as fast. That is critical for it’s “Storm Watch” capability. While it’s scanning the whole Earth, it can go scan a very small area with potentially dangerous weather to provide up to the minute information for forecasters. In fact, those scans happen every 30 seconds! That type of speed and detail is unprecedented in satellite imagery and will allow meteorologists to better forecast how a severe storm will evolve. This will allow them to better warn people and potentially save lives. Wloszek finds this asset to be one of the most important, saying, “I have kids. So if they’re down the street and a severe storm is rolling through they’re gonna get that information just so much quicker. And I’m gonna be able to get them inside.”
The bottom line is meteorologists will get a full scan of the Earth every 5 minutes instead of every 30 minutes. Plus they have the advantage of zooming in on a potentially dangerous situation to see it in better detail than ever before. “But it also helps our neighbors. Canada, Mexico, South America. They also rely on NOAA for updates on the weather,” said Wloszek. This will take you to the GOES website where you can find even more information.