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ASK OCE — May 10, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 8


NASA representation is imperative in the upcoming Department of Defense certification process for the National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), according to a report released in late March by the Government Accountability Office.

The NPOESS project has been involved in as assessment of alternatives since November 2005 because its cost growth exceeded a legislatively mandated threshold, triggering an automatic certification process. Decisions about the program’s future are frozen until that takes place in June 2006. The program office has implemented an interim plan allowing important work on key sensors and other program elements to continue.

The satellite system is currently overseen by three federal partners: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA, who have formed a tri-agency integrated program office to manage NPOESS.

In addition to calling for all three agencies to play an active part in the DOD certification process, GAO said that continuing oversight of program and executive management is essential to avoid repeating past problems. It also noted that indecision over the project could risk a gap in satellite coverage if the final satellite in the predecessor satellite series — the Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites or POES and Defense Meteorological Program Satellites or DMSP — were to fail before the next generation came online.

Polar-orbiting environmental satellites provide crucial data and imagery utilized by weather forecasters, climatologists, and the military to map, track, and monitor changes in weather, climate, the oceans, and the environment.

The satellites are critical for long-term weather prediction, including forecasting path and intensity of hurricanes. The current operational polar-orbiting environmental satellite program consists of two satellite systems, their supporting ground stations, and four data processing centers.

The two current systems, which have been in existence since the 1960s, are the Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) series, managed by NOAA, and the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), managed by DoD.

NPOESS seeks to combine these two satellite systems into a single environment-monitoring satellite system. NPOESS is essential to the nation’s ability to maintain a constant flow of weather forecasting and global climate-monitoring data though the year 2020.

Read the full GAO report. (PDF)

In This Issue

Message from the Chief Engineer

NASA on the Hill: Administrator Griffin Testifies about Budget

This Week in NASA History: Magellan Heads to Venus

PM Challenge 2006 Draws 1,000

GAO: NPOESS Requires Agency Attention

Risk Communication: One PM’s Perspective

Leadership Corner: A Speech is Not a Data Dump

It’s a Small, Small World: NASA Nanotechnology

Archimedes Archive: The First Flight of Traian Vuia

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