The NOAA-15 Weather Satellite May be Failing

Over the last few days the NOAA-15 APT weather satellite has begun to show signs of failure with people receiving corrupted images. NOAA 15, 18 and 19 are weather satellites that can be easily received with an RTL-SDR and a satellite antenna such as a V-Dipole, QFH or Turnstile (tutorial here). NOAA 15 was launched on 13 May 1998, making it one month away from being 20 years old. To put it into perspective, NOAA-15 was only built to the spec of being designed to last 2 years minimum. 

The problem currently appears to be intermittent and is due to a loss of lubricant on the scan motor. NOAA released a message:

The N15 AVHRR global imaging became corrupted on April 12 at ~0000 UTC due to sync issues. This may be caused by erratic scan motor current due to loss of lubricant. The problem appears to have corrected itself, as the global image is no longer corrupted. The issue is still under investigation.

In the Tweet below UHF Satcom displays an example of a corrupted image that was received.

The issue is intermittent, and hopefully it can be fixed, but if not we still have NOAA 18 and 19 which were launched in 2005 and 2009 respectively, as well as the Russian Meteor M2 satellite which was launched in 2014. 

If you're interested discussion of this topic can be found on various Reddit threads [1], [2], [3].

3 comments

  1. moo

    To put it into perspective, NOAA-15 was only built to the spec of being designed to last 2 years minimum.

    government space missions do this thing where they have some announced life time that’s super low, so that if they screw up, they can tell the public they still totally did what they set out to do, please don’t take away our funding.

    buried deeper in the design review documents, you’ll find the real lifetime that the government expects out of the spacecraft, and if it doesn’t meet that, the various contractors will catch shit. there’s no way anyone on the mission expected this thing to last less than 10 years. so it is maybe doing 2x what it should’ve, not 10x.

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