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Weather Satellites Continue To Face Cost Overruns And Delays

The satellites' cost has increased by $670 million since 2007, and the program is now in danger of experiencing discontinuity in forecasting data.
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 27, 2009
The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment heard from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on the status of the new Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) series of weather satellites being developed by NOAA.

At the request of the Committee, GAO has submitted its latest report on the program, Acquisition Has Increased Costs, Reduced Capabilities, and Delayed Schedules. The report points to a number of areas that are of concern.

The satellites' cost has increased by $670 million since 2007, and the program is now in danger of experiencing discontinuity in forecasting data.

Further, in an attempt to keep the program closer to schedule and the costs down, the satellites' capabilities have been downsized by cutting more than half of the instruments originally planned.

Discouraged by persistent setbacks, Subcommittee Ranking Member Bob Inglis (R-SC) discussed the possible consequences if a gap in data were to occur.

"There is still a threat of launch delays, and even if we get two new satellites in the air, we're now not sure if there will be an on-orbit backup. That means that one mishap with the new instruments, and we could lose our forecasting eyes on half the world. What if we're incapable of predicting a hurricane because of this?"

Inglis continued, "GOES-R today is a $7.7 billion program for two satellites. That is a lot of taxpayer money. We expect that investment to provide a series of weather satellites that are launched on time and provide data to ensure the most accurate possible weather forecasting and modeling."

NOAA depends on its GOES satellites to detect and track weather systems affecting the Western Hemisphere.

The Severe Storm Center uses GOES to track tornadoes, hailstorms and other weather events threatening life and property over land. For the Hurricane Center, GOES shows developing storms in the areas of the oceans where there are no other observational sensors.

At today's hearing, former Environment, Technology and Standards Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), expressed his deep concern over the lost capabilities of the GOES-R satellites.

Ehlers played a key role in originally bringing attention to cost overruns of another NOAA satellite program (NPOESS), which sparked the Committee to start watching the GOES-R program's progress more closely.

The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee: Mr. David Powner, Director, Information Technology Management Issues, Government Accountability Office; Ms. Mary Ellen Kicza, Assistant Administrator for Satellite and Information Services, NOAA; and Mr. George Morrow, Director of Flight Projects Directorate, Goddard Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Weather Satellites Continue To Face Cost Overruns And Delays
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 27, 2009
The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment heard from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on the status of the new Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) series of weather satellites being developed by NOAA.







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