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article imageNOAA investigating why GOES-17 can't keep it cool in space

By Karen Graham     May 24, 2018 in Science
On March 2, 2018, NASA successfully launched the second in a series of next-generation weather satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - the GOES-17, and recently, it was working fine. Now, there's a glitch in the system.
The GOES-S weather satellite is the second member of a new generation of geostationary weather satellites in the GOES Program and joined GOES-16, formerly known as GOES-R, which launched on November 19, 2016. GOES-S was renamed GOES-17 once it reached orbit.
GOES-17 has been under-going non-operational testing to calibrate the instruments before becoming fully operational, which could take as long as seven months. After that, the satellite will be turned over to NOAA. In its final orbital position, GOES-17 will be positioned over the eastern Pacific Ocean in the GOES-WEST position. This will allow the satellite to see parts of the world not in view from GOES-16, which is in the GOES-EAST position.
Several weeks ago, according to ArsTechnica, it became apparent that the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) had a cooling problem. This instrument is a critical part of the weather satellite and the cooling problem affects 13 of the infrared and near-infrared channels on the instrument that help to detect clouds and water vapor content.
Right now, the infrared wavelengths are offline - and to function, the satellite needs to be actively cooled for the instruments to function. This is because the infrared wavelengths only work if the sensor stays below 60K, or minus 350° Fahrenheit. Problem is, the satellite's cooling system only reaches that cool temperature for about 12 hours a day.
In a news release on May 23, The NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) said: "If efforts to restore the cooling system are unsuccessful, alternative concepts and modes will be considered to maximize the operational utility of the ABI for NOAA's National Weather Service and other customers. An update will be provided as new information becomes available."
It will, indeed, be a huge blow for NOAA if the cooling problem aboard GOES-17 can't be fixed, but there are still plenty of weather satellites up in space, like GOES-16, which is doing an exemplary job. But we will hope for the best as technicians work to find a solution to fixing our newest weather observer.
More about GOES17, Weather satellite, ABI instrument, infrared imagery, Technology