Solar Camera Repaired, Captures First Image

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A new space camera designed to watch the sun from its perch aboard an advanced weather satellite has taken its first image of our nearest star after a months-long glitch.

The new X-ray solar image shows the sun mottled with bright, active spots. NASA called the satellite’s sensor recovery nothing short of “miraculous” in a June 14 announcement.

“Frankly, we were down to our last straw when all the teams’ hard work and efforts finally paid off,” Andre Dress, GOES N-P deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a prepared statement. “We now believe we have a full recovery of the instrument’s functionality! It’s an incredible story and a true testament of our NASA/contractor teams expertise, hard work and determination.”

The Lockheed Martin-built sensor, called the Solar X-Ray Imager, is riding on the $500 million Geostationary-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-15 satellite that launched in March to serve as a continuous weather sentinel. The satellite also is monitoring the sun for potentially dangerous solar flares.

But the Solar X-Ray Imager suffered a voltage glitch soon after GOES-15 blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., March 4 atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket.

“Since the early checkout of GOES-15 and the anomalous turn on of the Solar X-Ray Imager, the team has been aggressively pursuing all avenues to recover the instrument,” Dress said.

NASA engineers brought the satellite back to full health June 3 after months of battling the voltage issue, which threatened to leave the solar imager inoperable for good.

“I don’t think most people realize how important these space weather instruments are in our everyday life,” Dress said. “This data is used by the U.S. Department of Defense, NOAA, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in protecting our space assets, land based assets and directing flight paths for the FAA.”