JPL Scientists Play Detective, Investigate Equipment Malfunctions Aboard Space Station

Published : Wednesday, September 14, 2016 | 5:17 AM


An instrument aboard the International Space Station is being investigated for containing anomalies by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in Pasadena.

The ISS-RapidScat, a tool that measures surface wind speeds and directions over the ocean, was reported to have anomalies on August 19 by the International Space Station’s payload operations center located at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, according to a statement released by JPL to the media.

The first anomaly — which resulted in the loss of power to payloads aboard the station — lead to RapidScat being shut off. After, when JPL mission managers tried to reactive the tool, one of the outlets on RapidScat’s power distribution unit experienced a power surge and shut off, according to the press release. The outlet not only powered RapidScat, but also the High-Definition Earth Viewing Experiment (HDEV) and the Solar Monitoring Observatory (SOLAR) payloads.

Because of the electrical overload, mission managers decided to treat the malfunctions as two separate anomalies: the first being the loss of power to multiple payloads connected to the power distribution unit and the other being the electrical overload experienced by the attempted restart of RapidScat.

On August 23, workers were able to restore power to HDEV and SOLAR, isolating the electrical overload to RapidScat’s site, according to the media statement.

RapidScat is currently deactivated and in stable condition. It will remain that way pending review by the RapidScat project anomaly team, which will work in tandem with the space station’s anomaly response team. However, the instrument’s survival heaters are still on because without them, the tool would not be within allowable flight temperatures, according to the media statement.

RapidScat was first launched in September of 2014 and was developed as a quick and economical replacement for NASA’s QuikScat satellite, according to the press release. It’s main functions are to improve marine forecasting, study climate and monitor hurricanes.

For more information on ISS-RapidScat, visit:

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