Watch the US launch a next-gen weather satellite at 5:10PM ET

GOES-R should usher in a new era of live weather and climate tracking.

If all goes according to plan, the US is about to enter a new era of weather tracking. The United Launch Alliance is scheduled to launch the first instance of GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite), the US' next-generation weather observer, at 5:40PM Eastern (live NASA coverage starts at 5:10PM). The new satellite not only captures sharper images width more wavelengths, but takes those snapshots at a much higher frequency that promises to change how meteorologists and climatologists track environmental conditions.

Where previous GOES satellites would only report back once every several minutes, GOES-R provides images every 30 seconds. In tandem with the expanded information, that makes it far more practical to monitor wildfires, hurricanes, fog and other rapidly-developing phenomena. Nature notes that it could even be used for proactive responses. You'd have a better idea of when a serious storm is about to roll in, and firefighting crews could deploy before anyone on the ground even spots a given blaze.

It will take a lot of time and money before NOAA's vision is complete. There are three other GOES-R vehicles in the pipeline, and it'll cost almost $11 billion to keep them going until the end of their mission in December 2036. However, it might be worthwhile if it helps with timelier, more accurate responses to (and predictions of) environmental trouble in the US.