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."
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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