June 03, 2018

The First Imagery from the New Geostationary Satellite

The new GOES-17 weather satellite has sent back its first imagery.   But  the excitement of these stunning images has been tempered by the revelation of a major problem that may not be repairable.

The GOES-17 is from the new generation of geostationary weather satellites, with advanced sensors and roughly twice the horizontal resolution. They provide color visible imagery, more frequent scans, and even the ability to observe lightning from space.   The first of the generation (GOES-16) is in place over the eastern U.S. and GOES-17 was meant to replace the western NOAA/NWS geostationary satellite (GOES-15) that was launched on 2010. 

The most important new system on the satellite is the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) that provides high resolution visible and infrared radiation information.

Here is one of first images from GOES-17 ABI.  Full color, high resolution.   The satellite is over the equator and sees the whole hemisphere.  And it will be moved westward later to its final position at 137W longitude.

Here is an animation fro GOES-16 of low-level clouds along the California coast...just marvelous.

And here is image showing example of lightning observed by GOES-17.

How about a video of some smoke from wildfires over Canada observed by the new satellite?

GOES-17 was scheduled to go operational later this year, replacing GOES-15.

But there is a problem.... a serious one.   

The infrared sensors on GOES-17  must be cooled to around 60 Degrees Kelvin (minus 351 degrees Fahrenheit) to enable them to be fully sensitive to infrared light coming up from below.   The problem is that for roughly 12 hours each day, the cooler inside the Advanced Baseline Imager is unable to chill the detectors to such cold temperatures.  Bad AC.

And there is no way to send a technician up to the orbit of the satellite (about 35,000 km above the surface).   Perhaps there is some remote fix possible, but if not, we will have a substantially degraded weather satellite in orbit.

Visible imagery will be fine, lightning information will be available, but critical infrared imagery (and vertical soundings) will be degraded for half the day.  In the meantime, the old weather satellite (GOES-15) is working fine for the time being.



  1. I told them to stay away from those cheap Chinese-made satellites on eBay, but they wouldn't listen.

  2. Bummer. Someone failed thermodynamics.

    The radiators must either be too small or are picking up too much solar radiation. Either by whatever color they are painted or their orientation. Or there was some attempt to have them be passive. The ISS uses the Carnot cycle with ammonia, but it still requires a pump. Maybe the pump on the sat is broken? If the pump is broken maybe the sat could be commercially captured in the future and fixed. Otherwise, its just straight up defective.

    Growing career field: IntraOrbit Satellite Repair Technician.

  3. Still, the visible imagery is spectacular.

  4. It would appear that the first image the satellite took was a selfie!

  5. To BAMCIS... the cooling system design is the same as used on earlier satellites of this type, all of which function correctly. So likely not a design issue (or as you state, a failure to understand thermodynamics), but rather a manufacturing/materials/contamination defect.

  6. So we get visible imagry during the day and infrared only at night? Thanks Lockheed Martin :(

  7. I realize this is akin to apples vs. oranges, but if they figured out a way to fix the Hubble, then hope springs eternal.

  8. Unlike GOES-17, Hubble was designed from the get-go for servicing and upgrades via spacewalks on Space Shuttle missions. Also, GOES-17 is about 100x further away from Earth.

  9. Bummer. Someone failed thermodynamics.

    Seriously? You think anyone on this project isn't a super top top engineer? Shit happens, you can't account for every possible variable. Worse of course is we can't easily send repair technicians for these things, so it puts ridiculous pressure to get everything perfect up-front. Not reasonable.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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