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NASA, NOAA Discover Cause of GOES-17 Issue

By | August 2, 2019
Artist’s rendering of a GOES-17 satellite in space. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

Artist’s rendering of a GOES-17 satellite in space. Photo: Lockheed Martin

A Mishap Investigation Board appointed by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) identified the most likely cause for an instrument issue aboard NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-17 satellite that launched March 1 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

During post launch testing of the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), teams discovered the instrument’s infrared detectors could not be maintained at the required temperatures during some orbital conditions, which resulted in a partial loss of three of the instruments 16 bands during certain times of the year. The ABI is GOES-17’s primary instrument for imaging Earth’s weather, oceans, and environment. It views the Earth with 16 spectral bands including two visible, four near-infrared, and 10 infrared channels.

The mishap board was tasked with gathering and analyzing information, and identifying the proximate causes, root causes, and contributing factors related to the ABI performance issues. It concluded the most likely cause of the ABI cooling issue is a blockage in the instrument’s loop heat pipes, which transfer heat from the ABI electronics to its radiator. The blockage restricted the flow of coolant in the loop heat pipes, causing the ABI to overheat and reducing the sensitivity of infrared sensors. NOAA and NASA have adjusted the instrument operations, and are working to improve the quality of the data in order to reduce the impact of the cooling issue.