The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS for short) launch has been pushed back to October 12, 2017. The launch was originally schedule for September 21, 2017. The launch is still expected to take place from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California.
According to Christi Hudgins of the Launch Operations team in the JPSS Program Office, there were two separate issues that arose that caused the delay of the launch. “First, a recently discovered reliability issue with a specific type of capacitor used on JPSS-1 spacecraft and instruments will require additional time for the JPSS Program to more completely assess the situation. This involves additional testing of spare parts and a comprehensive assessment of the JPSS-1 vulnerability to failures of these parts. These capacitors are being used on multiple non-NOAA satellite missions in addition to JPSS-1, and the NOAA/NASA team is working with our industrial and research aerospace partners to understand how this issue may have affected the on-orbit performance of other missions using the same capacitors.”
Alex Chernushin, the JPSS Program Manager, described in detail the rigorous testing procedure the JPSS will be put through in the months pre-launch. The tests that the will be put through involves putting the satellite and its instruments through extremely loud noises, a violent rocking and shaking test (both simulated the types of forces the satellite would experience in the rocket takeoff), extreme radiation levels (so this satellite would be able to withstand space weather events such as coronal mass ejections from the Sun) and even collisions from the ever-increasing problem of space junk. A failure of a part of the satellite is not unusual and is almost to be expected, Mr. Chernushin explained. He added that “it is far better to notice these errors here and now as compared to in the future when the satellite is in orbit.”
Ms. Hudgins described the second issue noticed as “electrical interference between the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) instrument and the spacecraft during the final thermal vacuum environmental test. This interference must be understood and corrected sufficiently to ensure the ATMS operates properly on-orbit.” Needed fine-tuning of this instrument will lead to the JPSS to be ready for launch and operation when it is finally put into orbit.