DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 4 Earth-imaging satellite fails

The WorldView 4 satellite in Lockheed Martin’s factory in Sunnyvale, California. Credit: Lockheed Martin

DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 4 commercial Earth observation satellite, which launched in 2016 for a planned 10-to-12-year mission, has suffered a failure in its control moment gyros and is no longer able to acquire high-resolution imagery, officials announced Monday.

Maxar Technologies, DigitalGlobe’s parent company, said in a press release that the WorldView 4 spacecraft has lost an axis of stability due to the failure in the gyro system, which governs the satellite’s pointing, a requirement for aiming its telescope and camera toward targets on the ground.

“Efforts are ongoing in conjunction with its suppliers in an attempt to restore satellite functionality, but thus far these efforts have been unsuccessful,” Maxar said in a statement. “At this time, Maxar believes that WorldView 4 will likely not be recoverable and will no longer produce usable imagery.”

WorldView 4 was built by Lockheed Martin, and its control moment gyros were supplied by Honeywell, Maxar said. The high-resolution imaging satellite launched Nov. 11, 2016, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, with a planned design lifetime of 10-to-12 years.

The spinning control moment gyros govern the orientation, or pointing, of the satellite, giving it the stability to take sharp images with its 3.6-foot (1.1-meter) diameter telescope.

Maxar said ground controllers have put the WorldView 4 satellite in a safe configuration and will continue to monitor the satellite’s location and health.

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