October 18, 2013
Two weather satellites received a rare mention in the law to restart U.S. government spending after a shutdown of more than two weeks, one that stresses the need to retain launch readiness given that both programs are in key phases of development.
The bill that passed Oct. 16 and was signed into law just after midnight the next day remains a stopgap measure that continues funding at fiscal 2013 levels. That leaves programs seeking a substantial increase in funding for 2014, the fiscal year that started this month, in something of a bind.
The funding constraints would hit key National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) programs particularly hard.
The next-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite System (GOES-R) was in line for a $339 million increase above its fiscal 2013 level.
The bill calls out GOES-R and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), stipulating that amounts should be made available to both programs to “maintain the planned launch schedules.”
The next GOES launch is planned for October 2015; first launch for JPSS is scheduled for 2017.
JPSS has had a troubled history. Its predecessor, the multi-agency National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, was canceled in 2010. In 2012, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D), who has led the Senate Appropriations Committee on space matters, called the $1 billion in cost growth for JPSS, “outrageous.” Mikulski, who now leads the full committee, represents Maryland, where much of NOAA’s weather-satellite development and management takes place.