NOAA GOES-13 satellite becomes first ever to recover from a micrometeoroid impact

An unclassified metallic spherule (possible micrometeorite) on the tip of my index finger. Image Courtesy: Ryan Thompson, 2012

An unclassified metallic spherule (possible micrometeorite) on the tip of my index finger. Image Courtesy: Ryan Thompson, 2012

I had been watching this, as my own weather imaging business was affected by it, and I wanted to wait to see if the fix held before writing about it. It has, and here’s the story from NOAA/NESDIS:

NOAA returns a healthy GOES-13 to normal operations as GOES-East

(June 10th) NOAA today officially returned the GOES-13 spacecraft to normal operations, after tests showed a micrometeoroid, likely hit the arm for the solar array panel on May 22, knocking the spacecraft off its delicate, geostationary balance.

The jolt caused GOES-13’s instruments to automatically shut down, and engineers put the satellite in a safe mode until they could analyze the problem. The team of engineers – from NOAA, NASA, Boeing and Exelis – determined the collision did not damage GOES-13’s instruments, or the satellite itself.

“Once again, NOAA has three, healthy geostationary satellites ready and able to track hurricanes, severe storms, floods and other dangerous weather conditions,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

On May 22, GOES-13, the GOES-East satellite, stopped producing imaging and sounding data. As an immediate, temporary measure, NOAA configured GOES-15, the West Coast satellite parked at 135 degrees longitude, to provide additional coverage of the eastern United States and part of the Atlantic Ocean. During the early hours of May 23, NOAA then activated GOES-14 from its orbital storage position at 105 degrees W longitude to provide coverage of the East Coast, as engineers continued to analyze GOES-13.

NASA GOES-13 Full Disk view of Earth May 14, 2010

NASA GOES-13 Full Disk view of Earth May 14, 2010 (Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

“Our established back-up plan worked,” Kicza said. “NOAA forecasters continued receiving valuable satellite images and data necessary to issue life-saving warnings for tornadoes and floods.”

At all times, NOAA operates two GOES spacecraft -one in the East and the other in the West- both hovering 22,300 miles above the equator. NOAA always keeps an additional GOES in orbital storage mode ready to step in if one of the active satellites experiences trouble.

NOAA manages the operational environmental satellite program and establishes requirements, provides all funding and distributes environmental satellite data for the United States. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., procures and manages the development and launch of the satellites for NOAA on a cost reimbursable basis.

—-

More about micrometeorites:  http://geologicnow.com/8_Thompson.php#sthash.CwArw06G.dpuf

28 thoughts on “NOAA GOES-13 satellite becomes first ever to recover from a micrometeoroid impact

  1. I’m going to say that having 2 spares would be prudent and 4 spares would be wise … if that hit was more severe we would now be down to no spares …

  2. The team of engineers – from NOAA, NASA, Boeing and Exelis …

    Is there any way we could get listen-only privileges on the conference calls that take place during an incident like this?

    .

  3. Using some of the more conservative estimates for micrometeorites reaching the earth, some 46,000 billion tons of this fine ‘salt and pepper’ has been deposited from space. This is in addition to larger ‘macro’-meteorites.
    I suspect some of earth’s geochemistry has been profoundly influenced by these additions.

  4. KInda wonder how they knew it was a micro-meteoroid and not some wild alien kids pulling a prank. Way back when, we used to attribute these things to “cosmic rays” — supposedly better than saying “gremlins did it”. I can see it causing an attitude control loss (particularly since GOES went into safehold) but hard to believe a speck of dust would have enough momentum to affect the orbit of an object some 500,000+ times its weight,

  5. CodeTech says:
    June 17, 2013 at 6:03 pm
    Anyone else find it fascinating that NOAA operates satellites in pairs?

    Fascinating in what way? Note the craft in this post is GOES-13. Have you wondered what happened to 1 through 12? The eventually succumb to age just like everything else. And just like everything else, the time of their demise is up for grabs. So, NOAA, sensibly provides timely replacements that bypass the problems and delays associated with construction (which can take years) and finding a suitable launch window in the available launch schedule.

    NOAA isn’t the only organization to do this. NASA’s TDRSS has on-orbit spares as do the telecommunication companies.

  6. Never mind. I should have just clicked on the image on my weather page and ignored the NOAA message.

  7. “first” ever to recover from a micrometeoroid impact;

    Well, that seems a bit speculative. There are many satellites up there. Others have gone into “safe mode” (it’s programmed into most satellites, and does not require ground intervention) for reasons that can only be surmised at first.

    Most times the “bird” can be successfully “rebooted” and it returns to normal operation. Micrometeoroids can cause these sorts of problems. But there are other causes as well, bad commands from Earth is one, upsets of the on-board computer “brain” by high energy cosmic rays is another. I suspect the engineers involved looked at all the diagnostic data and concluded that a micrometeoroid strike was the most likely cause. But they will likely admit that they “do not” know for sure.

    The Japanese lost a communications satellite due to a large solar flare. Usually there is some warning since there is a satellite between the Earth and the Sun (close to the Earth relatively speaking) that gives about 30 minutes warning of “incoming” radiation. It is usually possible to turn the affected satellites so the “hardest” (thickest) surface faces the flare. But sometimes even that is not enough.

    Micrometeoroids do slice through cables on satellites, but the cables are redundant and designed to degrade gracefully. Kind of like plugging your toaster into multiple wall outlets in case one power cord gets sliced; it is of course much more complicated than that, so please do not try this at home.

    F=MA, not much M, but a whole lot of A, or in the case of an impact, a whole lot of deceleration (same as A just a different sign).

    Cheers, Kevin

  8. DAV – I’m sorry, we’re on two completely different pages here.

    I was referring to NOAA (Noah) doing things in pairs (two by two).

  9. One of my best customers worked for Rolls Royce (Filton). He claimed that when one of their satellites’ electronics was put out of commission they rotated the instrument until sunlight illuminated the impact site. Using the on-board camera they analyzed the debris spectroscopically and determined that the skin of the craft and, subsequently the circuit-board, had been penetrated by a fleck of paint. Russian paint. 20,000 MPH Russian paint. From the third ascent stage of a specific vehicle.

    As clever as this was they never managed to re-commission the sat.

  10. CodeTech says: Anyone else find it fascinating that NOAA operates satellites in pairs?

    Pairs of three? Fascinating ;) Your Noah crack was perhaps not obvious from your first comment.

  11. “Russian paint. 20,000 MPH Russian paint. From the third ascent stage of a specific vehicle.
    As clever as this was they never managed to re-commission the sat.”

    Heck, with that sort of forensic evidence they have enough to sue the Ruskies don’t they?
    At least to claim a free satellite launch for the replacement spacecraft.

  12. Yeah – it wasn’t too funny… sorry.

    Anyway, I always figured for the overall cost of an average satellite they’d pretty much want redundancy everywhere, since the biggest cost is the existence of the satellite in the first place. Once you have the chassis and have it lifted, you’d want redundant power, imaging, telemetry, etc. if possible.

    And to be on topic, I’m actually impressed that they got this thing back to operational too. When it went out I figured that was it. Not like they can put a repair guy in geosync…

  13. The GEOS 13 Earth photo that Anthony uses here is very interesting.

    NASA GOES-13 Full Disk view of Earth May 14, 2010

    Fascinating oscillatory pattern of cloud around equator somewhat north of actual equator. Also note a similar pattern of patches of almost no cloud reflected on the southern side.

    Mid May is getting towards max northern extent of annual solar cycle. I think this demonstrates the auto-regulation of tropics in action. More solar input in N , more cloud cover. Opposite in SH. Nearly clear skies.

    Willis’ “governor” in action ??

    My cumulative integral of degree.days in tropics during volcanoes echoes the same thing.

    http://climategrog.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=310

    I would suggest that the clear skies below the equator in this shot are what happens after an eruption right across the tropics. I don’t know if there are any similar shots from the post Mt Pinatubo period that could be used to test that idea.

  14. Similar thing over Iceland ??

    Ash plume from Eyjafjallajokull Volcano, Iceland May 12th View [detail]

    There seems to be absence of cloud under volcanic plume in an areas with blanket cloud coverage.

  15. Ash plume from Eyjafjallajokull Volcano, Iceland May 6th View

    There’s a whole series if you scan that flicker slider show. Not all show such a clear pattern but most do. This may be more to do with cloud seeding triggering precipitation and clearing cloud.

    If that happens after major tropical eruptions that may also be part of the negative feedback allowing tropics to capture more of the reduced solar reaching the surface.

  16. Did anyone check for the Andromeda Strain on this imported item? Or is that optional in the case of govt. staff and agencies? That’s how the bee population got corrupted and kudzu was imported.

  17. KevinK says June 17, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    F=MA, not much M, but a whole lot of A, or in the case of an impact, a whole lot of deceleration (same as A just a different sign).

    Hmmm … that may yield the micrometeoroid it’s initial ‘push’ (the force imparted), with the total amount of kinetic energy (Joules) ultimately imparted being equal to 1/2 the mass multiplied by the square of the speed.

    Or: Work (the total energy of the meteoroid in joules) = (1/2 * mass) * (velocity ^ 2)

    Taking it from the top, with: Force = mass * acceleration

    And: acceleration = velocity / time

    We get: F = m * v / t

    And since: W = F * d, and d = ½ * v * t

    We get: W = m * v * d / t

    substituting further we get: W = mv(½vt)/t

    or: W = ½mv²

    .

Comments are closed.