A few months ago, NOAA launched a new satellite to monitor the weather in the United States. The satellite is called GOES-17, and it is intended to track weather conditions in the eastern half of the country. The satellite is equipped with high-tech cameras and sensors to measure the weather more accurately and precisely than ever before. At least that was the plan, before a an equipment malfunction has taken part of the machine out of service.
According to a NOAA announcement, a satellite cooling system is malfunctioning, meaning that one of the satellite’s most important instruments has to be shut down for several hours a day. The problem appears to stem from the cooling system behind the Advanced Baseline Imager, an instrument that continually photographs the Earth in visible and infrared light.
To take infrared photos, the ABI should be around -350℉. It’s very cold, and to reach such a low temperature, the ABI needs a functioning cooling system. Without it, the ABI cannot take pictures continuously.
This does not mean, however, that the satellite is completely out of service. The other instruments on the satellite are still working well and the ABI can still take pictures in visible light. The ABI isn’t even completely incapable of taking infrared photos; the absence of a cooling system only limits this operation to 12 hours a day. But that’s certainly far from ideal for a satellite that’s supposed to be equipped with the next generation of weather monitoring technology.
NOAA is still investigating the issue and hopes to find a solution that will fix the problem soon. Ideally, the problem will turn out to be a software glitch or something and the satellite can be repaired from the ground. If that is not possible, NOAA is exploring ways to continue to use the satellite to the best of its ability.
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