GOES-17 Keeps Going

GOES-17 satellite bounces back from glitch

Image source: https://www.space.com/goes-17-satellite-glitch-california-wildfires

In an article dated 3 August 2021, author Chelsea Gohd describes the memory bit error that occurred on GOES-17, taking it out-of-commission for nearly 22 hours. The GOES-17 satellite monitors the ground for wildfires and was recently autonomously put into “safe mode” after a memory error on-board. After nearly a day of troubleshooting, engineers finally restored the satellite out of safe mode into a nominal operating state with sensors performing well. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suspects that there will be some minor data quality degradations due to this event short term, but has confidence that there will be no long lasting effects.

This is not the first time the GOES-17 satellite has gone into safe mode, the first caused by a failure in the satellite’s temperature control system. This indicates to me that there seems to be vulnerabilities in the satellite’s flight software that could leave it susceptible to adversarial hacking. Because these systems are highly resource-limited, memory is of high demand for all software on-board and corrupting memory within a computer is not an impossible task to an outsider. Memory locking and checking could be a potential growth area for cybersecurity in the future, especially as cyber attacks become more commonplace.

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