Brand new Weather Satellite of NOAA is going blind

Brand new Weather Satellite of NOAA is going blind

A multi-billion dollar weather satellite, GOES-17, works only 12 hours a day as non-favorable temperature affects the performance of its ABI.

Weather Satellites see a lot more than clouds like sandstorms, auroras, effects of pollution, and boundaries of ocean currents. These satellites can be Geostationary or Polar Orbiting but the basic goal of both of them is to monitor the climate of the Earth. A polar-orbiting satellite is the one which moves around to cover all the areas of Earth. Contrary to that, geostationary ones keep hovering at their specified location on the Equator. The weather satellites of the United States, China, Russia, Europe, Japan, and India ensure a global weather watch as they are observing the climate of our planet, continuously.

Earlier, geostationary sky-watchers like Moves-13, Runs-14, and Proceeds-15 were assigned the duties to send us data about all the weather-related phenomena. A multibillion-dollar family of four high-resolution satellites replaced them in 2016 as Travels-16 was premiered. It is already functional and is providing images from the Americas to the western coastline of Africa. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched the second member of this expensive series in March this year.

A lot of things have not gone according to plan in the first few months of this venture. The cooling system of this device is essential for its proper functioning. Unfortunately, it never really started as the mission hit the space which resulted in the partial blindness of the satellite. As all the satellites mentioned above are geostationary, there are collectively known as Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES).

This family of satellites is very powerful and all of them can study the unprecedented details of the atmosphere of Earth. This will prove extremely useful for the humanity as the risk assessments, including storm forecasts and earthquakes, will improve significantly. All the specifications of GOES-17 were the same as GOES-16 and the task assigned to it was to monitor weather patterns in the Pacific Ocean and the western parts of the United States. On 23rd May 2018, NOAA announced that a problem has emerged in the satellite as they were trying to make it online while it was in the orbit. Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) who had to observe the atmospheric winds did not start properly. As a result, GOES-17 spends half of every day in blindness.

According to NOAA engineers, the purpose of an ABI is to observe light across 16 different channels of the infrared and visible spectrum. Having said that, it requires an incredibly low temperature (around -213o C) for proper working. The ABI of GOES-17 was produced in the same factory as the ABIs of GOES-16, Himawari-8, and Himawari-9. All of them have the same specifications and the previous satellites have accomplished this task efficiently.

However, it seems as if the cooling system of GOES-17 couldn’t survive the heat of the hottest part of the day, which is shockingly the midnight. The temperature of its ABI rises so much that all of the infrared channels come to a halt while only three visible-light channels remain operational during that part of the day. They are necessary to map the heights of the winds in the upper atmosphere. As they are not functional, precious time is wasted.

In the views of the engineers, the situation is alarming but there is no need to press the panic button at least for now. All the instruments of the satellite including ABI are working 12 hours a day. They also mentioned that there will be no gap in the coverage of the weather satellite even if GOES-17 proves to be a total bust. GOES-13 and GOES-14 will cover the gap for it until 2025 before their fuel runs out. The two remaining siblings of GOES-16 and GOES-17 are still on Earth but they are yet to be launched. Initially, the expected date for the launch of GOES-T was somewhere in 2020 but it will wait till either one of the airborne siblings needs replacement.

GOES-U will replace the satellite that dies second and is expected to launch in 2024. Both of these satellites are already built so any error that might have affected the performance of GOES-17 may be present in them as well. Despite the fact that scientists know about that, nothing can be done. Considering the recent reports, one of them may have to replace their sibling much earlier than the researchers anticipated.

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Muneeb ud Deen
A sports fanatic who loves to read.
"Honesty and self-satisfaction have been my weapons throughout my writing career of 3 years."

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