Fort Wayne plays key role in weather satellite that could save lives

The Advanced Baseline Imager was made in Fort Wayne by Harris Corp. (Courtesy photo)

America’s latest weather satellite launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday night — and a piece of Fort Wayne was on board.

Harris Corp.’s second Advanced Baseline Imager, built for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was the main payload on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES). NOAA’s first GOES, now called GOES-East, launched in 2016 and includes the first ABI that monitors the Western Hemisphere. It became operational late last year and covers the eastern half of the hemisphere, while GOES-S will cover the western half.

GOES-East has tracked hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and along the East Coast, providing the National Weather Service with more detail on each storm’s structure and path than available from previous weather satellites. GOES-S will improve fire detection and severe weather forecasting, helping to protect residents in the western U.S. The ABI instrument has day-and-night thermal detection and 30-second revisit capabilities providing firefighters more insight into fire intensity, behavior and how it will spread. Harris made the ABIs at its facility in Fort Wayne at 1919 W. Cook Road.

“The ABI’s increased capabilities will help save lives and provide new insight and better forecasts for severe weather, fog, volcanic ash and many other environmental issues,” Eric Webster, vice president and general manager of Harris Environmental Solutions, said in a statement.

Harris ABIs also will be included on two future GOES launches, completing NOAA’s latest generation of weather satellites. The entire series will be controlled by Harris’ enterprise ground system and will deliver three times the amount of spectral coverage in four times the resolution and five times faster than older GOES satellites.