NPP Satellite at the Ball Aerospace facility.
Photo courtesy of Ball Aerospace (Click image for full size.)
The next generation of environmental and weather satellites requires robust risk management, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
GAO issued separate reports analyzing progress toward replacing the nation’s aging fleet of polar-orbiting environmental satellites and geostationary weather satellites.
The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program office, managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with NASA, launched the NPP satellite in the fall of 2011. According to GAO, there will likely be a data gap of 17 to 53 months between NPP’s operational life and the next JPSS satellite. Other potential gaps relate to supplementary data provided by the Department of Defense’s Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and the European Meteorological Operational (MetOp) satellite. GAO recommends that NOAA establish risk mitigation plans to address these data gaps.
The GOES-R series of four satellites is set to replace the earlier generation of geostationary weather satellites. The first GOES-R satellite is scheduled to launch in October 2015, but uncertainty about the program’s ability to meet that date could result in the need to use data from older satellites with limited functionality. GAO recommends that NOAA “assess and report reserves needed over the life of the program, improve the reliability of its schedules, and address identified program risks.”