The nation’s newest weather satellite, launched less than three months ago, has a serious cooling problem that could affect the quality of its pictures.
The trouble is with the GOES-17 satellite’s premier instrument for taking images of hurricanes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions and other natural calamities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday. The imager’s infrared sensors aren’t getting properly cooled.
Experts are scrambling to understand what went wrong and how to fix it. Officials expect it will take at least a few months to figure out.
“As you can imagine, doing this remotely from 22,000 miles below only looking at the on-orbit data is a challenge,” said Steve Volz, head of NOAA’s satellite and information service.
NOAA stresses that three other GOES satellites in orbit, including GOES-16 launched in 2016, are healthy and meeting forecasting needs. Launched in 2016 as the first in a $11 billion effort to revolutionize forecasting, GOES-16 monitors the Atlantic and East Coast. GOES-17, the second in the series, is intended to provide the same coverage for the western U.S. and Pacific region.
Volz told reporters the trouble was discovered three weeks ago during the satellite’s routine checkout in orbit. The satellite was launched by NASA on March 1 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.