A third U.S. Air Force weather satellite that launched more than 20 years ago has broken up in orbit, Air Force Space Command disclosed Monday evening.
The U.S. Air Force has sent Congress a long-term strategy for weather satellite data, a vision that relies heavily on international partnerships and incorporating information from new satellites from Europe, Korea and India.
A power failure affecting an encrypted command-and-control system on board the U.S. Air Force's Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight-19 spacecraft is to blame for the loss of the two-year-old weather satellite, the Air Force announced July 25.
A sensor aboard one of the U.S. Air Force’s two primary weather satellites has been providing researchers with unreliable sea ice measurements for more than a month, according to the civilian-run National Snow & Ice Data Center.
The Air Force has stopped trying to recover a two-year-old weather satellite after operators lost the ability to command the spacecraft last month, an Air Force spokesman said March 24.
The head of Air Force Space Command told lawmakers March 15 that a two-year-old weather satellite is “about dead” and that the Air Force does not expect the satellite to return to operations.
A top Air Force official, worried that operators last month lost the ability to command a two-year-old weather satellite, has ordered its twin satellite to temporarily be kept in storage as a backup plan, even though Congress terminated the program in December.
“We could have saved the Air Force and the Congress a lot of aggravation if we put a half of a billion dollars in a parking lot and just burned it,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)
A proposed U.S. Air Force weather satellite that service leaders said in March could launch as early as 2018 to help plug the gap between the current system and a new-generation capability is now scheduled to launch in 2021, the service said in a report to Congress.
U.S. lawmakers authorize $40 million next year for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program but restrict access to the funding until senior Defense Department officials can demonstrate that launching the final satellite in the series is the best and most affordable option.
The U.S. Air Force has seven aging Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft in orbit that are susceptible to the kind of explosive battery rupture that destroyed the 20-year-old DMSP-F13 in February, producing more than 100 trackable pieces of orbital debris.
The U.S. Air Force has asked Congress to reprogram $100 million in 2015 funding to launch the final satellite in the service’s legacy weather satellite program, just weeks after the House and Senate recommended permanently shelving the hardware.
Following the lead of its House counterpart, the Senate Appropriations Committee is recommending no funding next year for the U.S. Air Force’s legacy weather satellite program, casting doubt on the service’s plan to launch the last spacecraft in the long-running series.