A few months ago, I wrote about the issues with GOES-17, which is due to be our western satellite. To recap, the cooling system which keeps the camera and sensors aboard cool is working well below performance standards. This causes the sensors to overheat and deliver very noisy or useless pictures. The problem occurs on GOES-16 as well, but is nowhere near as bad, and is not causing any issues that NOAA can see at this point.
What exactly the problem is remains unclear. It is possible that GOES-T, destined to be launched in 2020, could be delayed, but nobody is willing to bet that until they can figure out what is happening. And, without cameras, it’s hard to figure out what is going on.
Even so, there are some measures NOAA can take that has improved the cooling system on GOES-17 some. And, it has had a significant effect. Per NOAA, the estimated performance issues, and this is all preliminary, are:
13 out of 16 ABI channels available 24 hours a day, with 3 channels available 20 hours a day near the winter and summer solstices;
10 out of 16 channels available for 24 hours, another 3 channels available for 20 hours, and the last 3 channels 12 hours before the spring and fall equinox.
So, that is a lot better than before, but obviously not optimal. In the meantime, design changes will probably be forthcoming for GOES-T and beyond for the cooling systems, and again, it’s too early to tell if these will delay the launch of those satellites. But it’s still good news for GOES-17. In short, this means that basic visible, IR and water vapor channels should be operational nearly all or all of the time.
Additionally, some mechanical slight-of-hand and additional tweaks could cause even more availability in the future, but we will have to see how this pans out.
Expect the first regular images to be sent this fall in test mode, including AllisonHouse Maps.