NOAA’s low hanging problem–Part 3

The past few posts have been about the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s “urgent” satellite need using the Independent Review Team’s (IRT) recommendation from the November 2013 report.  In the last post, you were introduced to the systems status pages of satellite NOAA-16 in the hopes of showing you the satellite’s overall health.  The only problem is, there doesn’t appear to be an overall, single summary color for the spacecraft, so now is the time for guessing.

The question is, before guessing, how are the colors “weighed?”  Is it a case of the most urgent, crippling color determining the overall status of the spacecraft (orange)?  Or are these colors averaged, in which case the spacecraft would likely be yellow?  Or, do the payloads have less effect on the satellite, than other sub-systems, so their color status doesn’t impact overall status of the spacecraft that much?  Believe it or not, people argue about this sort of thing.  Some managers believe spacecraft status reflects their inability to run the spacecraft competently and so try to “soften” the actual status of the spacecraft.  Let’s assume that behavior is not reflected here.

Let’s go with worst case and just guess NOAA-16 is orange (but payloads will impact overall status minimally).  That means it’s broken, but can still do some work.  Now let’s take a look at the overall status of NOAA-18 (below).

NOAA-18 Summary Status page. Click on pic for webpage.

Notice NOAA-18’s ADACS (Attitude Determination and Control System) is “yellow?”  That would mean ADACS can work, but with some limits.  Also notice HIRS (High Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder) and SBUV (Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet Radiometer) payloads are “red,” which means they aren’t working.  All other subsystems and payloads are green.  Assuming the payloads aren’t weighed as much, but also assuming ADACs is critical, the overall color of NOAA-18 would be yellow.

Next up is NOAA-19 (below).

NOAA-19 summary status page.  Click on link for "real page."
NOAA-19 summary status page. Click on link for “real page.”

Only two NOAA-19 payloads seem to be affected:  HIRS, which is orange, and MHS (Microwave Humidity Sounder) which is yellow.  Everything else on NOAA-19 is green.  So using our assumed color logic, NOAA-19 is green.  This means the NOAA has at least three satellites that are operational.  Aqua also seems to be working.  I couldn’t find Aqua’s status pages, but I did find an announcement on their NASA page that Aqua has a “strong chance of operating successfully into the early 2020’s.  Suomi NPP also seems to be operational.  Hmmmm.  I might be just a journalism major, but I think 2 operational satellites plus 3 operational satellites equals–5 operational satellites.

With 5 working satellites then, the NOAA urgency in all likelihood comes down to that mission design life thing.  Is the IRT being conservative in its November 2013 report when considering mission design life?  Is it a case of covering the backside?  What is the reason for that if the team is independent?  If you look at page 5 of the report, it says right there, in black and white:  “The guiding principle used by the IRT in the conduct of the independent assessment and development of recommendations was focused upon maximizing the probability of success of the NOAA satellite enterprise.”  Phew!  Maybe the IRT got paid by the word?  Let’s simplify, shall we?  How about:  The IRT aims to keep NOAA satellites flying?

Since five satellites still are (a couple rather gimpily) orbiting the Earth, isn’t the IRT’s principle pretty much fulfilled?  Maybe it’s the fact that NASA owns two of those five satellites, including one which NASA is pretty sure will be flying into the early 2020’s?  So is this whole thing maybe a turf war?  What about other organizations with sun-synchronous LEO satellites?  Can they help?

If there’s an urgency in this, wouldn’t asking others for help, especially for bad weather affecting lives around the globe, be okay?  Maybe they need to get on the–A-Train (of satellites, that is).  More in next post.

One thought on “NOAA’s low hanging problem–Part 3

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s