NOAA’s Newest Weather Satellite Suffers A Serious Problem

Posted: May 26 2018, 7:16pm CDT | by , Updated: May 27 2018, 12:35am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
NOAA’s Newest Weather Satellite Suffers a Serious Problem
Credit: NASA

GOES-17 satellite's premier imager has a cooling problem that could affect the quality of its pictures

NOAA’s new weather satellite GOES-17 is suffering an unexpected failure just three months after launch. A vital instrument of the satellite has a severe cooling problem. The device, called Advanced Baseline Imager, takes images of hurricanes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions and other natural calamities and its breakdown could affect the quality of its pictures.

At this time, the problem is interfering with the performance of 13 of the infrared and near-infrared channels on the instrument. The imager’s cooling system is designed to operate at around minus 350 degrees Fahrenheit, but it is unable to maintain frigid temperature during the warmer part of each orbit. This means the channels are not properly functioning about half the time.

"This is a serious problem," said Steve Volz, head of NOAA's satellite and information service. The infrared channels "are important elements of our observing requirement, and if they are not functioning fully, it is a loss."

Experts are currently attempting to fix the problem. However, it could take many months to solve it. If efforts to restore the cooling system are unsuccessful, other options will be considered to maximize the satellite’s efficiency.

"As you can imagine, doing this remotely from 22,000 miles below only looking at the on-orbit data is a challenge,” Volz said.

Launched on 1 March, GOES-17 is the second of four NOAA’s advanced Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites. The satellite is part of $11 billion programs and uses state-of-the-art technology to monitor Western U.S. The satellite is intended to revolutionize forecasting with fast, crisp images. But the recent problem could prove devastating. Meanwhile, GOES-16 satellite with identical imager is meeting its required performance levels. Two remaining satellites GOES-T and GOES-U will be launched in 2020 and 2024 respectively.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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