Just three months after launch, an instrument aboard the federal government’s newest weather satellite malfunctioned.
The instrument – a high-tech camera known as the “Advanced Baseline Imager” – is the satellite’s first device to capture images of natural disasters such as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and forest fires.
The camera was supposed to return extremely detailed images of the weather and could have surveyed the entire Western Hemisphere in just five minutes.
the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed on Wednesday that the imager’s infrared sensors are not properly cooled.
“This is a serious problem,” said Steve Volz, chief of NOAA’s satellite and information service. He said the infrared channels “are important parts of our observing needs, and if they don’t work fully, it’s a waste.”
Although the temperature up there is incredibly cold at around 450 degrees below zero, the sun’s rays can still heat up and damage the satellite and the instruments on board.
Scientists are scrambling to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Officials expect it will take at least a few months to figure out. A team of experts from federal agencies and contractors is looking into the problem and “pursuing several possible corrective actions,” NOAA said.
Harris Corp. designed the instrument and spokeswoman Kristin Jones said the washington post that “we are working closely with NOAA, NASA and other industry experts to resolve issues”.
The camera is mounted on the GOES-17 satellite, which was launched on March 1. It flies over the western United States and is a twin to GOES-16, which was launched in November 2016 and keeps an eye on the eastern United States.
GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, which means the satellite hovers over a point on Earth, moving with the rotation of the planet about 22,000 miles above the surface.
Since its launch in late 2016, GOES-16 has returned incredible images of powerful hurricanes, major blizzards and severe thunderstorms unlike anything seen before by a weather satellite, AccuWeather said.
NOAA points out that three other GOES satellites in orbit, including GOES-16, are healthy and meet forecasting needs.
Contribute: The Associated Press