CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA has a busy week ahead: three astronauts are launching from Kazakhstan, a NOAA satellite launches from Cape Canaveral and a crew will dock at the International Space Station all within two days this week.
A National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration weather satellite, GOES-R, is scheduled to launch on Saturday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The launch window opens at 5:42 p.m.
When it reaches orbit 22,000 miles above Earth, GOES-R will join GOES-East and GOES-West satellites helping weather forecasters make advanced predictions for weather hazards and help with search and rescue missions.
The improved GOES-R will a “game-changer for weather forecasting,” NOAA said.
GOES-R will improve advanced warning of space weather hazards to notify astronauts on the International Space Station to seek safety from space debris or geomagnetic storms.
A major improvement from previous satellites, GOES-R will use the new Advanced Baseline Imager. The instrument will scanner five-times faster with four-times the resolution and can scan an entire hemisphere every 5 minutes.
GOES-R is loaded with five additional instruments, including the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, the first lightning mapper in stationary orbit with Earth. This instrument will allow forecasters to track lighting instantaneously, according to NOAA.
In addition to advanced weather prediction, the satellite will help with search-and-rescue missions. A transponder on GOES-R detects emergency distress signals and relays the data to NOAA, which will then notify the appropriate responding agency.
In August, NOAA satellites aided in the rescue of 45 people stranded at sea on board the Alaska Juris fishing ship, according to NOAA.
NOAA is working with international academic institutions so they can also access and benefit from GOES-R data.
The launch was delayed from Nov. 4 due to Hurricane Matthew, so that the launch facilities could be examined for potential damage from the storm.
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center experienced millions of dollars in damage after the storm, KSC Director Bob Cabana said.
Cabana also said the Space Center was extremely lucky, because the storm was predicted to make a direct hit at Cape Canaveral and instead stayed 20 to 25 miles offshore.
NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet will launch Thursday on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
They will dock at the International Space Station on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. Eastern Time, according to NASA.
Learn more about the new satellite in the NOAA video below: