DMSP-19 Weather Satellite Dead After Air Force Ends Recovery Effort

DMSP Flight 19 Satellite
The Air Force's newest weather satellite on orbit, known as the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 19, stopped responding to commands from operators in February. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force/Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON — The Air Force has stopped trying to recover a two-year-old weather satellite after operators lost the ability to command the spacecraft last month, an Air Force spokesman said March 24.

Operators at the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado have "ceased all recovery efforts" of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 19 satellite, Andy Roake, a spokesman for Air Force Space Command, said in a March 24 email to SpaceNews.

NOAA satellite operators unexpectedly lost the ability to command the Air Force's DMSP Flight 19 satellite on Feb. 11. The satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, is used to help weather forecasters predict fog, thunderstorms and hurricanes that could impact military operations. Launched in April 2014, the spacecraft is the Air Force's newest weather satellite on orbit and had a five-year design life. [See launch photos for the DMSP-19 weather satellite]

In the last week, Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command, ordered the creation of a safety investigation board to look into the incident, Roake said. Further investigations are still possible.

Hyten warned a House subcommittee March 15 that he did not expect the satellite to return to operations.

The DMSP constellation requires at least two primary satellites and two backup satellites to gather cloud imagery. As a result of the problem, the Air Force has reassigned an older satellite, DMSP Flight 17, which launched in 2006 and had been serving as a backup, into a primary role.

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Editor-in-Chief, Sightline Media

Mike Gruss is a veteran defense reporter and Editor-in-Chief of Sightline Media Group, which includes Army Times, Air Force Times, Dense News, Military Times and Navy Times. From 2013 to 2016, Mike served as a Senior Staff Writer for SpaceNews covering national security space programs and military space policy in the U.S. Congress. Mike earned a bachelor's degree in English and American Studies from Miami University and has previously wrote for the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana and the Virginian-Pilot in Virginia before joining SpaceNews. Prior to joining Sightline in 2017, he was a senior editor of FedTech magazine covering technology in federal government. You can see Mike's latest project on Twitter.