Returning impaired GOES-West satellite to service

Last view of Earth from the now restored GOES-West weather satellite. Image: NOAA

The GOES-West weather satellite has resumed service after being broken down yesterday due to an anomaly. Originally known as GOES-17 and GOES-S before that, a satellite-triggered on-board computer reset forced it to go into safe mode at 1:37 a.m.ET yesterday. In this phase, all GOES-17 instruments were automatically turned off. This morning, NOAA announced that the GOES-17 has exited backup mode and engineers expect its six instruments to return to normal operations soon.

GOES-17 is no stranger to technical failures. A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket brought the GOES-S satellite into space for NASA and NOAA on the evening of March 1, 2018. The perfect launch brought the last satellite of the operational geostationary environmental satellite (GOES) – R series of orbiting satellites. After reaching orbit, the GOES-S was renamed GOES-17. After a period of control that was to extend into the spring, GOES-17 was to enter service as GOES-West and provide the Pacific and Western United States with additional coverage to GOES-East, which does the same for the Atlantic. and eastern United States.

The United Launch Alliance Delta V rocket lifted off its launch pad, bringing the GOES-S weather satellite into space.  Photograh: Dr. Ken Kremer Exclusive for Weatherboy
The United Launch Alliance Delta V rocket lifted off its launch pad, bringing the GOES-S weather satellite into space. Photograh: Dr. Ken Kremer Exclusive for Weatherboy

During this phase of checking the satellite before it becomes operational, program specialists identified a major malfunction with the Advanced Baseline Imager. The problem affects 13 of the infrared and near infrared channels of the instrument, which has a total of 16 channels. A team of experts from NOAA, NASA, ABI’s contractor team, and industry investigated the issue and pursued several possible corrective actions.

The problem is with the plumbing in the cooling system which keeps the imager’s infrared detectors cool enough. Stephen Volz, NOAA’s deputy administrator for satellite and information services at the time, told reporters the problem was a “serious problem” during a conference call. “This is the first terrestrial pointing instrument on the GOES platform, and 16 channels, including 13 infrared or near infrared, are important parts of our observation needs, and if they are not fully functioning, it is is a loss. It’s a performance issue that we have to solve, ”Volz said.

The latest GOES satellites have many high-tech features to advance the science of meteorology.  Image: NOAA
The latest GOES satellites have many high-tech features to advance the science of meteorology. Image: NOAA

By the time the satellite became operational in November 2019, most of the satellite’s capabilities had been restored. Work had been carried out to reduce and / or circumvent the erroneous data coming from the satellite. “The GOES-17 ABI is now expected to provide over 97% of the data for which it was designed, a testament to the skill and dedication of the engineers and all members of the GOES project team,” Stephen said. Volz, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s satellite and information service. “We are confident that the GOES constellation will continue to meet the needs of forecasters across the country. “

According to NOAA, the probable cause of yesterday’s anomaly appears to be a memory bit error in the spacecraft’s computer. NOAA’s engineering team claim that the computer responded to commands correctly. As part of the service restoration, earlier this morning the Advanced Baseline Imager and Magnetometer have been restored and data is flowing. In a statement, NOAA said: “The team expects minor short-term data quality issues during instrument recalibration, but GOES-17 is on track to a full recovery without lasting effects on the instruments. the satellite. “

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