DMSP-19 weather satellite dead after Air Force ends recovery effort

by

WASHINGTON — The Air Force has stopped trying to recover a two-year-old weather satellite after operators lost the ability to command the spacecraft last month, an Air Force spokesman said March 24.

Operators at the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado have “ceased all recovery efforts” of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 19 satellite, Andy Roake, a spokesman for Air Force Space Command, said in a March 24 email to SpaceNews.

NOAA satellite operators unexpectedly lost the ability to command the Air Force’s DMSP Flight 19 satellite on Feb. 11. The satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, is used to help weather forecasters predict fog, thunderstorms and hurricanes that could impact military operations. Launched in April 2014, the spacecraft is the Air Force’s newest weather satellite on orbit and had a five-year design life.

In the last week, Gen. John Hyten, the head of Air Force Space Command, ordered the creation of a safety investigation board to look into the incident, Roake said. Further investigations are still possible.

Hyten warned a House subcommittee March 15 that he did not expect the satellite to return to operations.

The DMSP constellation requires at least two primary satellites and two backup satellites to gather cloud imagery. As a result of the problem, the Air Force has reassigned an older satellite, DMSP Flight 17, which launched in 2006 and had been serving as a backup, into a primary role.