GOES History

history timeline 1975-present
History Of GOES

Since 1975, Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) have provided continuous imagery and data on atmospheric conditions and solar activity (space weather). They have even aided in search and rescue of people in distress. GOES data products have led to more accurate and timely weather forecasts and better understanding of long-term climate conditions. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) builds and launches the GOES, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates them.

The satellites circle the Earth in geosynchronous orbit, which means they orbit the equatorial plane of the earth at a speed matching the Earth’s rotation. This allows them to stay in a fixed position in the sky, remaining stationary with respect to a point on the ground.
The satellites continually view the continental United States, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Central and South America, and Southern Canada. The satellites operate approximately 22,300 miles above Earth.

In October 2015, NOAA celebrated the 40th anniversary of the launch of the first GOES satellite. Click here to learn more.


The GOES satellites operate from two primary locations. GOES East is located at 75° W and provides most of the U.S. weather information. GOES West is located at 135°W over the Pacific Ocean. NOAA also maintains an on-orbit spare GOES satellite in the event of an anomaly or failure of GOES East or GOES West.

goes satellites over western hemisphere
Location of the GOES Fleet

GOES A-C (1-3)

Image: GOES A-C (1-3)

The early GOES satellites were spin-stabilized, viewing Earth only about ten percent of the time and provided data in only two dimensions (three if you consider time). There was no indication of cloud thickness, moisture content, temperature variation with altitude, or any other information in the vertical dimension.

GOES D-H (4-7)

Image: GOES D-H (4-7)

In the 1980s the capability was added to obtain vertical profiles of temperature and moisture throughout the atmosphere. This added dimension gave forecasters a more accurate picture of the intensity and extent of storms, allowed them to monitor rapidly changing events, and to predict fog, frost and freeze, dust storms, flash floods, and even the likelihood of tornadoes. However, as in the 70s, the imager and sounder still shared the same optics system, which meant the instruments had to take turns. Also, the satellites were still spin-stabilized.

GOES I-M (8-12)

Image: GOES I-M (8-12)

GOES-I, launched in 1994, brought real improvement in the resolution, quantity, and continuity of the data. Advances in two technologies were responsible: three-axis stabilization of the spacecraft and separate optics for imaging and sounding. Three-axis stabilization meant that the imager and sounder could work simultaneously. Forecasters had much more accurate data with which to better pinpoint locations of storms and potentially dangerous weather events such as lightning and tornadoes. The satellites could temporarily suspend their routine scans of the hemisphere to concentrate on a small area of quickly evolving events to improve short-term weather forecasts.

GOES N-P (13-15)

Image: GOES N-P (13-15)

GOES-N, O, and P further improved the imager and sounder resolution with the Image Navigation and Registration subsystem, which uses geographic landmarks and star locations to better pinpoint the coordinates of intense storms. Detector optics were improved and because of better batteries and more available power, imaging is continuous.

GOES Status

GOES satellites are designated with a letter prior to launch. Once a satellite has achieved orbit, it is assigned a number. The following shows the history and status of all GOES satellites.

Launch Designation: GOES-R Operational Designation: Launch: Status:
   GOES-A GOES 1 October 16, 1975 Decommissioned 1985
   GOES-B GOES 2 June 16, 1977 Decommissioned 1993, reactivated 1995, deactivated 2001
   GOES-C GOES 3 June 16, 1978 Used as a communications relay for South Pole research station
   GOES-D GOES 4 September 9, 1980 Decommissioned 1988
   GOES-E GOES 5 May 22, 1981 Decommissioned 1990
   GOES-F GOES 6 April 28, 1983 Decommissioned 1992
   GOES-G N/A May 3, 1986 Failed to orbit
   GOES-H GOES 7 February 26, 1987 Retired 1996; Reactivated as comsat for Peacesat from 1999; Decommissioned 2012
   GOES-I GOES 8 April 13, 1994 Decommissioned 2004
   GOES-J GOES 9 May 23, 1995 Decommissioned 2007
   GOES-K GOES 10 April 25, 1997 Decommissioned 2009
   GOES-L GOES 11 May 3, 2000 Decommissioned 2011
   GOES-M GOES 12 July 23, 2001 Decommissioned 2013
   GOES-N GOES 13 May 24, 2006 In operation as GOES East
   GOES-O GOES 14 June 27, 2009 In on-orbit storage
   GOES-P GOES 15 March 4, 2010 In operation as GOES West
   GOES-R GOES 16 November 19, 2016 Undergoing post-launch checkout and validation.
   GOES-S     Launch commitment date 4Q FY 2018
   GOES-T     Launch commitment date 4Q FY 2020
   GOES-U     Launch commitment date 1Q FY 2025