Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A gap in weather satellite coverage is a high risk

Satellite Today: The U.S. Government Accountability Office has officially labeled the forthcoming gap in weather satellite coverage as high risk. Solving this problem was one of two new issues added to the office’s list of high-risk programs and topics, which is updated every two years.

According to reports, during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said: "right now, gaps in polar orbiting satellites that provide early, midday and afternoon warnings to feed computer weather prediction models and provide 3-, 4- and 7-day forecasts [could] occur as early as 2014, and could last up to 53 months."

Studies indicate that without American polar orbiting satellites, meteorologists wouldn’t have been able to predict Hurricane Sandy’s turn west into the U.S. coast, which saved many lives and help the country prepare.

GOA has suggested that congressional oversight is necessary to address the problem and work together with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has been working on this problem for 10 years.

In 2002, the Department of Defense, NOAA and NASA formed the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which was supposed to replace the aging polar satellites. However, amid schedule delays and budget issues, the program disbanded in 2010. NOAA then established the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPPS) program, but even with NASA’s help, 2017 is the nearest date expected for a polar orbiting satellite replacement.

While NOAA has a few options on the table to reduce the duration of the gap, it seems inevitable that it will last for at least four years, and the agency would have to make difficult financial decisions....

NASA’s newest Earth-observing satellite soared into space aboard a Delta II rocket after liftoff on October 28, 2011. The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, blasted off at 2:48 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Shot by NASA's Earth Observatory, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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