Designed to operate in geosynchronous orbit, 35,790 km (22,240 statute miles) above the earth, thereby remaining stationary, the GOES spacecraft continuously view the continental United States, neighboring environs of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and Central and South America. The three-axis, body stabilized spacecraft design (GOES-8, onward) enables the sensors to image clouds, monitor earth's surface temperature and water vapor fields, and sound the atmosphere for its vertical thermal and vapor structures.
The main mission is carried out by the primary payload instruments, the Imager and the Sounder. The Imager is a multichannel instrument that senses radiant energy and reflected solar energy from the earth's surface and atmosphere. The Sounder provides data for vertical atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles, surface and cloud top temperature, and ozone distribution.
Other instruments on board the spacecraft are the search and rescue transponder, ground-based meteorological platform data collection and relay, and the space environment monitor. The latter consists of a magnetometer, an X-ray sensor, a high energy proton and alpha detector, and an energetic particles sensor, all used for in-situ surveying of the near-earth space environment.
Two advanced GOES satellites are in use: GOES-8, and -10 (Series I-M).
For more information about the GOES satellite, see: GOES Project