Report: NOAA Errors Led to Diminished Weather Satellites

GOES-17 satellite during processing by Astrotech. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NOAA’s poor management of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R (GOES-R) program has resulted in less accurate meteorological data from the GOES-16 and GOES-17 weather satellites now in orbit, according to an audit by the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General (IG). [Full Report]

NOAA’s failure to properly address an overheating problem discovered during ground testing in 2017 led to the degraded performance of GOES-17’s main instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). The GOES-16 satellite, which was already in orbit at the time, is also suffering from overheating of its ABI to a lesser degree, the report found.

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NOAA Mishap Board Completes Investigation into NOAA’s GOES-17 ABI Anomaly

The GOES-S satellite being lowered into a thermal vacuum chamber. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON, DC (NOAA PR) — A blockage in the loop heat pipe of the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), the primary instrument on NOAA’s GOES-17 satellite, prevented the instrument from cooling properly and impeded its ability to collect data, according to a special Mishap Investigation Board.

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NOAA Chief Scientist Praises Forecasters, Calls Statement Backing Trump Inappropriate, Political

Craig McLean

This following is the original message Craig McLean, NOAA Research Assistant Administrator, sent to all NOAA Research employees on the morning of Monday, September 9th regarding Hurricane Dorian and its wide-ranging impacts.

Dear Colleagues,

The fierce storm we know as Hurricane Dorian has concluded its ferocious path through the Bahamas and along the U.S. East Coast. Many of you have contributed to the excellent science that has underpinned the forecasts and current understanding of storms such as this one, which accelerated quite rapidly in intensity. The storm also presented challenges in track which improved with enhanced observations. 

We know that our collective work, from the scientists in the aircraft penetrating the storm, to the scientists deploying the glider picket line, to the modelers and folks working the physics of the storms, across OAR and in our CI’S, and across all NOAA Lines, we are working the problem in order to give the NWS forecasters the best tools we possibly can to keep America and our neighbors safe. Thank you. 

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Spire Global Announces First Weather Product Spire Forecast

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 11, 2019 (Spire Global PR) — Spire Global, one of the world’s largest space to cloud analytics companies today announced the first product from Spire Weather. Spire’s new Maritime Weather product, Spire Forecast will launch today and offer new weather forecasts dedicated to the maritime industry. The product will feature atmospheric and oceanographic weather attributes including, among others, sea surface temperature, ocean currents, wave height, surface wind, and air temperature, all available globally.

This move represents Spire’s first weather forecasting product, and how the company will eventually expand this new information into customized solutions for other industry verticals and market segments. The forecast will have an immediate impact on ports, ships and shipping companies as a new way to illuminate risk on routes such as the Red Sea’s Tokar Gap, conserve fuel, and safely increase productivity.

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House Science Committee Chairwoman Blasts Ross, Trump on Hurricane Dorian Actions

Eddie Bernice Johnson

WASHINGTON, DC, September 10, 2019 – Yesterday, the New York Times reported “Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at NOAA on Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion.”

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) made the following statement.

“I am extremely disturbed by the directive that NOAA leadership sent on September 6, which threatens the integrity and public trust of weather forecasts at the peak of Hurricane season. I am even more distressed to learn that political interference from the Secretary of Commerce may be behind the directive. The Committee will pursue this issue and we expect full cooperation from the Department of Commerce in our efforts. I would remind Department employees of the whistleblower protections afforded them by law. Any employees with information are welcome to share anonymously via the Committee Whistleblower Page.”

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Report: Wilbur Ross Threatened Firings at NOAA Over Sharpiegate

Wilbur Ross

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The New York Times reports that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top officials at NOAA unless they backed President Donald Trump’s claim that he was right when he tweeted about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama with worse damage than anticipated.

Meanwhile, NOAA’s top scientist is investigating whether the statement backing Trump’s claim violates the agency’s scientific integrity rules.

Trump tweeted on Sept. 1 that Alabama would be one of the states hit by the Category 5 storm. The warning was quickly contradicted by the National Weather Service’s office in Birmingham, Ala.

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White House Includes Space in Top 5 Research Priorities

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. ( Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Trump Administration has included space research and development to support returning astronauts to the moon by 2024 under NASA’s Artemis program among its top R&D priorities for fiscal year 2021, according to a White House memo.

“Departments and agencies should prioritize in-situ resource utilization on the Moon and Mars, cryogenic fuel storage and management, in-space manufacturing and assembly, and advanced space-related power and propulsion capabilities,” the memo said.

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GOES-17 Mishap Investigation Board Completes Study

The GOES-S satellite being lowered into a thermal vacuum chamber. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A Mishap Investigation Board appointed by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has identified the most likely cause for an instrument issue aboard NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-17 satellite that launched March 1, 2018 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

During post launch testing of the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), teams discovered the instrument’s infrared detectors could not be maintained at the required temperatures during some orbital conditions, which resulted in a partial loss of three of the instruments 16 bands during certain times of the year.

The ABI is GOES-17’s primary instrument for imaging Earth’s weather, oceans, and environment. It views the Earth with 16 spectral bands including two visible, four near-infrared, and 10 infrared channels.

The mishap board was tasked with gathering and analyzing information, and identifying the proximate causes, root causes, and contributing factors related to the ABI performance issues.

It concluded the most likely cause of the ABI cooling issue is a blockage in the instrument’s loop heat pipes, which transfer heat from the ABI electronics to its radiator. The blockage restricted the flow of coolant in the loop heat pipes, causing the ABI to overheat and reducing the sensitivity of infrared sensors.

NOAA and NASA have adjusted the instrument operations, and are working to improve the quality of the data in order to reduce the impact of the cooling issue.

GOES-17, in the GOES-West position, is helping forecasters track weather from torrential rain events to wildfires and other environmental hazards throughout the U.S. western region, including California, Alaska and Hawaii. Also, GOES-17 is monitoring typhoons in the eastern Pacific Ocean, including Hawaii. 

The Mishap Investigation Board Summary Report is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/reports

GOES-17 is one in a series of NOAA’s next generation geostationary weather satellites which include GOES-16, 18 and 19. The advanced instrument technology used on these satellites will result in more timely and accurate forecasts and warnings. It will improve support for the detection and observations of meteorological phenomena. The GOES-R Series program is a collaborative development and acquisition effort between NOAA and NASA to develop, launch and operate the geostationary weather satellites.

PlanetiQ Secures $18.7 Million Series B Financing Round Co-Led by New Science Ventures, AV8 Ventures

DENVER, Colorado (July 9, 2019) — PlanetiQ, the high-definition satellite-based weather forecasting and analytics company, today announced it has completed an $18.7 million Series B round of financing.

New Science Ventures and AV8 Ventures co-led the investment round with participation from existing and new investors, Valo Ventures, Kodem Growth Partners, Access Venture Partners, Virginia Tech Carilion Innovation Fund, Hemisphere Ventures, Service Provider Capital, Earth Investments, Moonshots Capital, and a large Kansas City-based family office that wishes to remain anonymous.

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A Look at the Payloads in Falcon Heavy’s STP-2 Mission

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — The Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission, managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), is targeting launch on June 24, 2019, with the launch window opening at 11:30 p.m. ET. Lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, this mission will deliver 24 satellites to space on the DoD’s first ever SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.

The STP-2 mission will be among the most challenging launches in SpaceX history with four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits, a final propulsive passivation maneuver and a total mission duration of over six hours. In addition, the U.S. Air Force plans to reuse side boosters from the Arabsat-6A Falcon Heavy launch, recovered after a return to launch site landing, making it the first reused Falcon Heavy ever flown for the U.S. Air Force.
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Groups Oppose Myers Nomination to Head NOAA Over Alleged Conflicts of Interest

Barry Lee Myers

WASHINGTON (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington PR) — CREW and other good government groups sent a letter to Senate Leadership urging them to consider adding language to Barry Myers’ ethics agreement and ask for documents on the sale of his AccuWeather shares before voting on his nomination as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

Myers is the former CEO of AccuWeather, which raises questions about his ability to serve impartially in the government. AccuWeather, which is still owned and operated by Myers’ family, profits in part off of data that is produced by the offices Myers would oversee.

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UK Delivers World’s Most Accurate Weather Satellite Instrument

SWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — Collaboration between the UK and France has developed a sophisticated forecasting instrument that will set new standards of accuracy in short term weather prediction.

Using high-performance infrared detectors made in Southampton, the new device will improve short-range weather forecasts by monitoring atmospheric instability and cloud structure. It will also analyse the content of the Earth’s atmosphere, detecting and tracking pollutants around the globe.
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GAO Removes Weather Satellite Program From High-Risk List

This visible image on Oct. 6 at 1:00 p.m. EDT from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite shows Hurricane Matthew as it regained Category 4 Hurricane Status. (Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has concluded that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) have made “sufficient progress” in mitigating potential gaps in weather data that would have resulted “in less accurate and timely weather forecasts and warnings of extreme events—such as hurricanes and floods.”

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NOAA, FAA AST Space Programs Get Funding Boosts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.

Commerce Department

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R,  Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:

  • JPSS: $548 million
  • GOES-R: $408.4 million
  • PFO: $330 million

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