Harris says its camera is improving

January 11, 2019

Harris Corp. said Thursday that a weather satellite camera built by its Fort Wayne operation is seeing much better these days.

Harris communications manager Kristin Jones said in an email that the company, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been able to recover 97 percent of the performance of the Advanced Baseline Imager, the main instrument on a Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite launched in March.

NOAA had said in May that the imager cooling system aboard the GOES-17 was running warmer than its optimal temperature of minus 350 degrees, causing three of the imager’s 16 channels to shut down part of each day. 

Imager performance had improved by July, and an investigative team concluded in October that “foreign object debris” had been blocking the flow of propylene coolant through the system’s loop heat pipes.

Jones said Thursday that Harris, NOAA and NASA “have taken a number of steps to optimize ABI’s performance” and that the GOES-17 will be placed into operational service as the GOES-West when the partial government shutdown ends. 

“This is a testament to ABI’s capable performance, which exceeds predecessor imagers,” Jones said.

A NOAA spokesman was unavailable for comment because of the government shutdown.

SpaceNews first reported the improved performance of the Harris imager on Wednesday after interviews with Harris and Lockheed Martin officials attending an American Meteorological Society conference in Phoenix. Lockheed Martin is the satellite manufacturer.

The GOES-17 is positioned 22,000 miles above Earth and is keeping watch over the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii, Alaska and North America’s West Coast. The cooling system malfunction had degraded the imager’s three infrared channels, which collect data on wind heights and water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere.

SpaceNews also reported Wednesday that Harris, NOAA and Northrop Grumman are redesigning the loop heat pipes that will be installed in the GOES-T so that the imager cooling system will use an ammonia coolant instead of the propylene used by the GOES-17. The GOES-T had been scheduled to launch in May 2020.


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