EL PASO, Texas — A malfunctioning U.S. weather satellite whose primary instruments were switched off in mid-September returned to full service Oct. 18, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

NOAA spokesman John Leslie confirmed in an email that the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-13 was again fully operational.

On Sept. 25, operators switched off GOES-13’s sounder and imaging instruments citing “data quality issues.” In an Oct. 16 press release, NOAA said the malfunction was due to “a vibration from aging lubricant in the sounder instrument.”

“The problem was fixed by eliminating the sounder filter wheel vibration,” Leslie said. “We can reduce the probability of reoccurrence by early detection of a vibration and by applying proactive means such as increasing the filter wheel temperature to minimize any friction.”

Leslie said the affected instruments had not been damaged and should be able to perform as designed for the duration of GOES-13’s mission. There is, however, a chance that the issue might recur. GOES-13 launched in 2006 and was designed to operate for at least 10 years.

GOES-13 will now resume tracking severe weather in the eastern United States or approaching the coast. GOES-14, an on-orbit spare that NOAA activated in early October and began moving to GOES-13’s 75 degrees west longitude orbital slot, will now be sent back to its storage location.

GOES-15 and GOES-12, the other GOES spacecraft on orbit, will continue monitoring the U.S. West Coast and South America, respectively.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is working under a NASA-administered contract to build the next-generation GOES spacecraft, the GOES-R series. The first of these is slated for launch in 2015 and will be renamed GOES-16 when it reaches orbit.

NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service operates the U.S. government’s civilian weather satellites, which besides the GOES series of satellites include spacecraft in polar low Earth orbit that provide global coverage.



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Dan Leone is the NASA reporter for SpaceNews, where he also covers other civilian-run U.S. government space programs and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He joined SpaceNews in 2011.Dan earned a bachelor's degree in public communications...