Space

NOAA satellite programs earn mixed reviews

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites - NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has made significant progress in the past year in developing two next-generation satellite programs, but critical issues require urgent attention, according to an independent review team.

The team released a report Nov. 14 stating that NOAA responded adequately in addressing 20 of 23 recommendations made in 2012 concerning the development of its Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series program.

The satellite programs, whose total lifecycle costs are projected to be more than $22 billion, have experienced cost overruns and delays in recent years, with the polar orbiting satellite delays receiving the most press because of a potential gap in coverage that could handicap weather forecasters.

Thomas Young, chairman of the independent review team and former director of the Goddard Space Flight Center, said during a conference call with members of the press that although NOAA has largely resolved most critical issues, the review team "still believes there is an unacceptably high risk of a gap that could be months or years in duration."

The report lists gap policy, JPSS gap mitigation and JPSS program robustness as the most critical issues NOAA faces in the development of both programs. The JPSS-1 satellite is scheduled to be launched in 2017, but existing polar satellites might not last until then. A larger and more damaging gap could occur if JPSS-1 runs into launch problems or operational malfunctions. The JPSS-2 satellite is not expected to launch until 2021.

"JPSS data is of critical importance for accurate, reliable forecasting for storm warnings," Young said. "The absence of JPSS data due to a gap could potentially be catastrophic. Even if it started today, such a program could not totally protect against a gap. The current JPSS program is very fragile and needs to be made more robust."

The report defines a robust program as one in which "two failures must occur before a gap is created" and states that "decisions need to be made, resources dedicated and management actions implemented to quickly move the JPSS program in this direction."

In addition, the report calls for NOAA to implement findings from a study it commissioned earlier this year to help mitigate the potential gap, along with a "gap-filler" program. It calls on NOAA to advance the JPSS-2 launch date as early as possible and place a series of instruments under contract immediately.

Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service, said the agency will continue to adhere to recommendations made by the independent review team and address oversight, governance and the potential gap.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group