Good Weather Satellites

For you fans of geostationary weather satellites who are following the subcommittee on energy and environment of the House Science and Technology Committee as it follows of the progress of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) program, (and come on, who isn't?) here, hot off the GAO's presses is the 42-page report released at this week's oversight hearings, Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites: Progress Has Been Made, but Improvements Are Needed to Effectively Manage Risks. (GAO-08-18, Oct. 2007).

Basically, GAO, which continues to review GOES-R series acquisition, looked at status and plans for the program and evaluated "whether NOAA is adequately mitigating key technical and programmatic risks."

(By the way, for those who need a refresher, the report includes a bit of background on geostationary and polar-orbiting environmental satellites -- both used by the US for weather observation, research and forecasting since the 1960's -- along with a brief overview of prior GOES series. NOAA’s
National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service [NESDIS] of course manages both GOES and the Polar Operational Environmental Satellites.)

Over at the hearings, subcommittee
ranking member Bob Inglis (R-SC) asked about cost and schedule estimate "discrepancies" between that of NOAA and GAO and said: "Those of us responsible for this program, Congress, NOAA, and NASA, cannot allow delays and cost overruns. GOES-R today is a $6.9 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."

For her part, in prepared testimony for the subcommittee yesterday, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Satellite and Information Services
Mary E. Kicza said, "I will be the first to acknowledge that NOAA does not have a strong track record with regard to recent satellite acquisition development efforts. We appreciate the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) recognition that, in the GOES-R acquisition, 'progress has been made.'"

Indeed, running weather satellite programs is stormy business. And the saga continues.

(On a related note, for you junkies, the House also has this roundup of its
oversight of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which it first described as: "A vital weather satellite program that is being jointly developed by NOAA, DOD, and NASA that is billions of dollars over budget and several years behind schedule," but then in June, crediting lawmaker oversight, called the program back on track.

(Yes, this wrangling is much more predictable than the weather.)

* * *

UPDATE: Meanwhile, as wildfires continue to rage in California this week, GOES-11 captured this image of smoke rising from flaming and scorched land.

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