GOES, Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, R Series is the United States’ most advanced weather satellite system.

This is the fourth generation GOES series, fifth allowing for the SMS series – which first launched in 1974. 

The GOES-R Series is actually four satellites R, S, T and U. The satellite is given a letter until it is launched and in geostationary orbit, and then it is given a number designation. 

  • GOES-R, launched in 2016 and renamed GOES-2016
  • GOES-S, launched 2018 and renamed GOES-2017
  • GOES-T, due for launch in December 2021
  • GOES-U , due for launch in December 2024


GOES-16 is the 16th successful satellite in the GOES series i.e it’s not 16 because of the year of launch. These four satellites will extend the life of the GOES series to 2036 meaning that GOES will have been operational for over 60 years.

The satellites are orbiting at around 37,000km, are built by Lockheed Martin through a joint NASA and NOAA project.


These R-Series provides the following improved capabilities:

  • Hurricane track and intensity forecasts
  • Tornado warning lead time
  • Detection of fog and low cloud
  • Air quality warnings and alerts
  • Fire detection and intensity estimation
  • Solar flare warnings 
  • Early warning of ground lightning strike hazards
  • Sea temperature monitoring

The R Series also provides radical improvements in data capture – with four-time the resolution and five times the speed of data capture, compared to previous GOES series satellites. 


GOES R Series Satellite
GOES R Series Satellite

Image from NASA