NOAA's new weather satellite GOES-17 suffers an unexpected failure just three months after launch. A key instrument of the satellite has a serious cooling problem. The instrument, called Advanced Baseline Imager, captures images of hurricanes, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters, and its collapse could affect the quality of its images.
At the time, the problem interferes with the performance of 13 of the infrared and near-infrared channels on the device. The imager's cooling system is designed to operate at about minus 350 degrees Fahrenheit, but is unable to maintain a cold temperature during the warmer part of each orbit. This means that the channels will not work properly about half the time.
"This is a serious problem," said Steve Volz, Head of NOAA's Satellite and Information Service. The infrared channels are "important elements of our observation requirement, and if they do not work completely, it's a loss."
Experts are currently trying to fix the problem. However, it could take many months to resolve it. If efforts to restore the cooling system are unsuccessful, other options are considered to maximize the efficiency of the satellite.
"As you can imagine, it's a challenge to do so from 22,000 miles below the on-orbit data." VOLZ