GOES-17, the newest weather satellite of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is suffering from a critical malfunction with its cooling system, placing its future in question.
The new NOAA satellite, with a name that stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-17, was launched on March 1. After less than two months in orbit, will NOAA be forced to bring GOES-17 back to Earth?
NOAA GOES-17 Satellite Malfunction
Just days after the release of new GOES-17 footage of lightning flashes across the United States, the NOAA revealed that the weather satellite is under investigation due to a malfunction with its cooling system.
GOES-17, which is supposed to cover the U.S. West Coast in partnership with GOES-16 covering the East Coast, is capable of taking high-resolution images of atmospheric conditions and tracking phenomenon such as lightning strikes and solar behavior.
However, several weeks ago, the Advanced Baseline Imager was discovered to have a cooling problem. The instrument, described as the most important one on GOES-17, takes images of the Earth at various wavelengths, including the visible part of the spectrum and the infrared wavelengths for detecting clouds and water vapor content.
How Does The Cooling System Malfunction Affect GOES-17?
For the instruments to function, the GOES-17 needs to keep its temperature below 60K, which is about negative 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The satellite's cooling system, however, is only reaching that temperature for 12 hours each day, with the infrared wavelengths offline for the rest of the time. The GOES-17 satellite is still capable of producing visible spectrum images and monitoring solar and lightning events, but without the infrared data, it will not reach its true potential.
Experts from NOAA, NASA, and the contractor team behind the Advanced Baseline Imager are now scrambling to understand the issue and fix it. However, repairs are expected to take at least a few months, partly because the GOES-17 is 22,000 miles above the Earth.
NOAA emphasized that, despite the cooling system malfunction, the GOES-17 weather satellite will still be able to provide some data, with the weather forecasting function unaffected. GOES-16, GOES-15, and GOES-14 are still operational, which means that the problem with GOES-17 has no immediate impact on weather monitoring across the United States.
The cooling system malfunction of the GOES-17 satellite may also impact GOES-T, the next satellite in the series that is expected to be launched in 2020. The issues with the Advanced Baseline Imager on the GOES-17 may also be present on the GOES-T, so the NOAA will have to take a careful look at the instrument before the satellite is launched.