Today’s Tidbits: July 30, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: July 30, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for July 30, 2018:  Jody Singer is new acting director of MSFC; ESA DG Woerner gets new two-year term; NOAA still troubleshooting GOES-17; GAO gives thumbs up to DOD hosted payloads.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Jody Singer Named Acting MSFC Director

NASA has named Jody Singer as the Acting Director of its Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, AL.  She succeeds Todd May who retired on July 27.  She began her NASA career in 1985 as an engineering intern and rose to become Deputy Director in 2016.  Along the way she held high level management positions for many MSFC programs including the space shuttle and the Space Launch System.

ESA’s Woerner Gets New Two-Year Term

European Space Agency (ESA) Director General (DG) Jan Woerner has been appointed to a second term that will last for two years.  As he explains in a blog post, historically ESA DGs are appointed for four years, with two possible four-year extensions.  That timetable does not jive with the ESA Ministerial Meetings that take place every three years to set policy and approve programs, however, so he proposed a change.  The DG would hold the position for six years, with two possible three-year extensions.  In each case, the maximum remains at 12 years.

By accepting reappointment for two years this time, added to the four-year duration of his current term, that will begin the first six-year segment.  Learn more by reading his blog: [].  Woerner is the former head of the German space agency, DLR.

Veteran space reporter Peter de Selding, formerly the Paris Bureau Chief for Space News and now with Space Intel Report, published an article about how the two-year extension ends “an unprecedented melodrama during which powerful European government space officials sought to have [Woerner] removed.” De Selding’s story is behind a paywall, but here’s a link for current or potential subscribers.

NOAA Still Troubleshooting GOES-17’s ABI

Artist’s illustration of a GOES-R series satellite. Credit: NOAA

NOAA provided an update last week on its efforts to find out what’s wrong with the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) on the new GOES-17 geostationary weather satellite.

As we reported in May, 13 of the 16 channels on the ABI work only intermittently because of a problem with the mechanical cooling system needed to keep the infrared (IR) sensors cold.  The ABI is one of six instruments on GOES-17 and the others are operating correctly, but NOAA characterizes ABI as the “premier” instrument on the spacecraft.

Because the problem is cooling, the ABI is affected only during parts of its orbit and at particular times of the year where the ABI is exposed to certain Sun angles.  Thus it works fine part of the time, but not all of the time.

GOES-17 is the second of four nearly identical satellites in the “GOES-R” series and originally was designated GOES-S.  All four were built by Harris Corporation.  The first, GOES-R (now GOES-16), is in orbit and working properly.  GOES-T and GOES-U are already built and awaiting launch.  Harris built similar satellites for Japan, Himawari-8 and Himawari-9, launched in 2014 and 2016 respectively.  Like GOES-16, their ABIs are fine, making the problem with GOES-17 all the more mysterious.

NOAA and NASA experts are still trying to identify the root cause of the problem and have narrowed it to four most likely possibilities.  They will recommend changes to be made to the ABIs on GOES-T and GOES-U before they are launched.  Meanwhile, they are working on changes to algorithms and operational procedures to make the ABI data from GOES-17 available more often.  Learn more at: []

GAO Gives Thumbs Up to DOD Hosted Payloads

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) took a look at DOD’s use of commercially hosted payloads and gave the overall effort a thumbs up.  The term refers to placing a government payload, like a sensor or other instrument package, on a commercial satellite that is designed for a completely different purpose.  In this manner the government can get a payload into orbit less expensively than building and launching a spacecraft of its own.  It shares the development, launch and ground systems cost with the commercial operator.

GAO listed the following benefits:  cost savings, faster on-orbit capability, increased deterrence and resilience, and continual technology upgrades and industrial base stability. It notes that DOD has used commercial hosted payloads three times already and three more are planned or underway.

It did find, however, that at the department level, DOD has limited and fragmented information on these commercially hosted payloads because it does not collect or consolidate such knowledge. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has a Hosted Payloads Office (HPO), but there is no coordination outside of SMC.  GAO recommends that DOD require that information to be centralized.  Read more at: []

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