A weather satellite has recovered from a brief anomaly and is back to studying Earth and its ongoing wildfires.
GOES-17 (Geostationary Orbital Environmental Satellite 17), an Earth-monitoring satellite operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), suffered an anomaly on July 22, according to a NOAA statement. The anomaly, thought to be the result of a computer malfunction, caused the satellite to enter a “safe mode” for 22 hours while engineers worked “tirelessly” to address the issue and return GOES-17 to normal operations, NOAA officials said.
“NOAA’s GOES-17 is out of safe-hold mode and engineers expect its six instruments to return to normal operations soon,” NOAA said in a July 23 statement after the team addressed the situation. “The probable cause of yesterday’s anomaly appears to be a memory bit error in the spacecraft computer. The engineering team says the computer has been responding correctly to commands.”
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After exiting safe mode on July 23, two instruments on board GOES-17 — the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) and magnetometer — were restored and operational and the rest of the satellite’s instruments came back online later on that same day.
“The team expects some minor, short-term data quality issues while the instruments are being recalibrated, but GOES-17 is on track for a full recovery with no lasting effects to the satellite,” the July 23 statement read.
Since getting back online in less than 24 hours, GOES-17 has been hard at work keeping a close eye on Earth as wildfires continue to rage around the globe.
“Numerous #wildfires across Canada and the western U.S. are spewing out so much #smoke that it now covers much of the sky in both nations, seen here from @NOAA’s #GOES17 this afternoon. More than 90 large wildfires are actively burning across 12 states in the U.S,” a tweet from NOAA today (Aug. 2) reads.
UPDATE: Numerous #wildfires across Canada and the western U.S. are spewing out so much #smoke that it now covers much of the sky in both nations, seen here from @NOAA’s #GOES17🛰️ this afternoon. More than 90 large wildfires are actively burning across 12 states in the U.S. pic.twitter.com/ZnwkZXHyirAugust 2, 2021
On Sunday (Aug. 1), the satellite was observing Northern California, collecting data about both the McFarland wildfire, which started by a lightning strike last Thursday (July 29) and has so far burned over 2,000 acres, and the Dixie wildfire that has now stretched to more than 248,000 acres.
#SATELLITE SPOTLIGHT: @NOAA’s #GOES17🛰️ was keeping close watch over #wildfires in Northern California yesterday. The #McFarlandFire (left), sparked by lightning last Thursday, is burning more than 2,000 acres; the #DixieFire (right) now covers more than 248,000 acres. #CAwx pic.twitter.com/OEnOpN0EIuAugust 2, 2021
This is not the first time that GOES-17, which launched in 2018, has faced issues in orbit. In 2019, the satellite suffered a problem with the Advanced Baseline Imager instrument caused by a blockage in a system that is used to keep the probe cool. An investigation showed that the issue stemmed from a failure within the satellite’s radiator and temperature control system, according to a report from SpaceNews at the time.
However, with these observations, GOES-17 appears to be back to its full operational status, and NOAA has not pointed to any additional issues or problems related to or following the short-lived anomaly.
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