Europe and Japan are leading the way toward cleaning Earth orbit of debris; satellite operators around the world must be ready to dodge debris and each other. It’s a chaotic situation that, to some, feels like an abdication of the U.S. government’s traditional leadership role in matters of space at a time when it’s never been more needed. Debra Werner examines the arguments and a potential solution.
Cooling pipes were not working inside the camera aboard NOAA’s geosynchronous GOES-17 weather satellite, degrading the performance of its crucial infrared channels. It sounded like game over, but not to NOAA and Harris Corp., the company that built the camera. John Van Naarden of Harris and Dan Lindsey of NOAA explain how engineers learned to operate GOES-17 and its camera without those critical cooling pipes.
Weather forecasters are always hungry for more data. Over the last few years, they've learned that signals from GPS and rival constellations can tell them interesting things about the atmosphere. The question is whether cubesats and other smallsats can gather these radio occultation readings accurately enough. Debra Werner takes the measure of a congressionally directed pilot project that could provide the answer.
The U.S. Air Force is in the midst of upending its decades-old approach of gathering life-and-death weather data for commanders and troops with limousine-sized satellites. Smaller is in for this next generation, and privately operated constellations could play a prominent role too. Debra Werner went looking for what could come after the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.