White House seeks 2015 Funds To Launch DMSP-20

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WASHINGTON — 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.

In a reprogramming request sent to Capitol Hill, a copy of which was obtained by SpaceNews, the service said the money was necessary to launch the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) -20 satellite by 2017.

The request likely faces an uphill battle.

Defense appropriations bills from both the House and Senate for 2016 denied funding to launch DMSP-20, the last in a line of weather satellites dating back to the 1960s. The White House, which threatened to veto both versions of the bill, listed DMSP provision as one of its objections.

Between the two bills, Congress is set to close the book on a program whose last satellite has been the subject of shifting Air Force plans for the past few years. Built in the 1990s, DMSP-20, had been penciled in for a 2020 launch even as the Air Force studied whether the cost — including storage — was worth it.

The study, completed this past September, recommended against launching the satellite. But the service earlier this year said it nonetheless it intended to launch the satellite in the coming years to help offset the loss of Middle East-area coverage now provided by a civilian European satellite slated for retirement in 2017.