Micrometeoroid Collision To Blame for GOES-13 Anomaly
Space may be a big place, but on May 22 NOAA's GOES-13 weather satellite was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A micrometeoroid hit the solar array arm, jolting the spacecraft and causing its instruments to shut down. NOAA announced that the satellite is returning to normal operations today.
Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-13 (GOES-13) is one of three GOES satellites currently in orbit. It is in the "GOES-East" position while GOES-15 is the "GOES-West" spacecraft and GOES-14 is an on-orbit spare positioned in-between. When GOES-13 suddenly stopped working on May 22, NOAA initially used GOES-15 to provide additional coverage of the eastern United States and surrounding waters, but soon activated GOES-14, which is there just for such emergencies. It filled in for GOES-13 last year during another temporary outage.
NOAA revealed today that "tests showed a micrometeoroid, likely hit the arm for the [GOES-13] solar array panel on May 22, knocking the spacecraft off its delicate, geostationary balance." The collision caused the satellite's instruments to automatically shut down and engineers put the spacecraft into safe mode while they analyzed the problem. They reactivated GOES-13 on May 29 as part of the troubleshooting process while GOES-14 continued to provide operational service.
Ultimately the engineering team from NASA, NOAA, Boeing and Excelis determined "the collision did not damage GOES-13's instruments, or the satellite itself." GOES-13 is now back on duty and GOES-14 will resume its on-orbit spare status.
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