Spaceflight Insider

NASA/NOAA open investigation into GOES 17 Anomaly

An “anomaly” that one of the GOES 17 satellite’s instruments has encountered has required NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to open an investigation. The agencies are concerned that the issue might impact future missions.

Everything appeared to be going well with the GOES-17 (formerly known as GOES S) satellite after its deployment and the early days of the mission. However, a problem discovered during the checkout of the spacecraft’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) found that the device’s infrared detectors were unable to operate at the temperatures necessary.

The issue appears to extend to revolve around “certain seasonal and orbital conditions,” and only impacts the ABI’s availability for approximately three percent of the year.

The ABI’s primary manufacturer was Harris Corporation Space and Intelligence Systems.

The defect with the ABI affects a key design requirement and, as such, NASA and NOAA are forming a panel to discover what caused the problem so as to develop methods to ensure that the situation isn’t repeated on future satellites.

SpaceFlight Insider reached out to NASA for further details about the issue and received the following response: 

The members of the MIB have received an initial informational briefing from the GOES-R Program Manager, and they have been provided with an initial set of supporting data from the program.  The MIB’s first step will be to receive a detailed outbrief of the results of the engineering studies that have been conducted to identify a specific root cause for the degraded performance in the ABI’s loop heat pipe cooling system and to make recommendations for corrective actions.

The investigation board will be led by David McGowan the Chief Engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center located in Virginia. Other members, who hail from several other NASA centers will form the remainder of the panel and include: Dr. Joel Lachter, human factors investigator, NASA’s Ames Research Center, Rich Slywczak, safety officer, NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Hank Rotter, NASA Engineering and Safety Center technical fellow for active thermal systems, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Julie Grantier, senior technical lead for systems engineering, NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) 17 spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 (AV-077) rocket at 5:02 p.m. EST (21:02 GMT) on March 1, 2018.

NASA and NOAA have been working to field the latest in the GOES family of satellites with two more, GOES-T and GOES-U (GOES 18 and 19) being prepared for deployment. GOES-17 is designed to provide data on the U.S. West Coast’s weather conditions.

The next-generation GOES spacecraft are based off the A2100A satellite bus that is produced by Lockheed Martin, which also serves as the platform for the GPS Block IIIA satellites.

As noted, these spacecraft are tasked with providing up-to-date information regarding the weather. This includes warning the public about dangerous weather conditions. The problem with the ABI instrument essentially means that GOES 17 has a malfunction in its cooling system that limits its ability to perform this task at night (according to a May 2018 report appearing on Spaceflight Now).

GOES operations are based out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Video courtesy of NOAA







Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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