The U.S. geostationary environmental satellite program began in 1966 with the launch of the first satellite of the Applications Technology Satellite (ATS) series. ATS-1, launched in December  1966.  ATS-1 carried an instrument capable of providing continuous images of the earth.  With this geostationary platform taking images every 30 minutes, imaging instrument designer and SSEC co-founder, Verner E. Suomi, proclaimed, “the clouds move, not the earth”  (more info on the geostationary orbit).

With the great success of the early geostationary satellite program, in October 1975 the first satellite under the GOES program was launched from Cape Canaveral, FL.  GOES-A was renamed GOES-I once it reached orbit.  GOES-2 and GOES-3 followed in 1977 and 1978.

Improvements since GOES-8

  • Three-axis stabilization for near-continuous observing
  • Separate instruments for imaging and sounding
  • New multispectral sensors for better atmospheric sounding
  • Stronger onboard batteries to provide data through eclipse periods

In April 1994, with the launch of GOES-8, NOAA introduced the first in a series of new geostationary satellites that incorporate a new design of three axes stabilized spacecraft, improved sensors, and a new ground data processing and distribution system.   Currently, the GOES system consists of GOES-12 operating as GOES-East at 75° west longitude, and GOES-11 operating as GOES-West at 135° west longitude.  Also, GOES-10 is providing data to South America from 50° west longitude. 

Satellite data is critical to modern weather forecasting and analyses. With high spatial resolution and dedicated coverage of specific regions, geostationary satellites offer a unique and powerful capability to monitor the earth and its atmosphere. UW-Madison’s SSEC/CIMSS has had a significant role in the evolution of satellite technology and our researchers continue to advance the applications of satellite data.

CIMSS GOES Sounder Derived Products

  • Precipitable Water
  • Lifted Index
  • CAPE
  • Cloud Products
  • Total Column Ozone

Imager Derived Products

  • Clear Sky Brightness Temperature
  • Clouds

Other Derived Products

View CIMSS GOES imagery and derived products

CIMSS scientists develop and test algorithms that use data from GOES instruments to understand different atmospheric properties and conditions. GOES sounder and imager products help define parameters for cloud conditions, atmospheric motion and mass, and surface properties. CIMSS researchers then work with NOAA to transition algorithms from research to operations. The many GOES activities at CIMSS include the GOES Improved Measurements and Product Assurance Plan (GIMPAP) and the GOES- Product Services Development and Improvement (G-PSDI) program. The former is for applied research, while the later focuses more on the transfer of the algorithms from the research to the operational environment.

CIMSS GOES product development includes: generating atmospheric profiles from sounder data, determining characteristics of clouds, detecting the development of convective clouds, detecting and characterizing wild fires, depicting the behavior of the winds associated with a tropical storm, and observing dynamic atmospheric patterns.

While continuing to refine uses of current GOES data, CIMSS scientists also participate in preparations for the next generation of geostationary satellites. CIMSS has helped define the expectations and specifications for the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) as well as algorithms to handle ABI data.