The next generation of U.S. geostationary-orbiting weather satellites likely will be delayed by four months due to a congressional reduction to the program’s 2008 funding request, according to U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget documents.

In unveiling its 2009 budget request Feb. 4, NOAA noted that Congress last year trimmed $44 million from the agency’s $279 million

request for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) program in 2008. As a result, launch of the first GOES-R satellite

will be delayed from December 2014 to April 2015, NOAA budget documents show.

The delay will increase the cost of the program and could lead to a gap in weather coverage should there be a launch or on-orbit failure of the earlier-generation GOES-O and GOES-P satellites, NOAA budget documents said. NOAA last year delayed the GOES-R program by two years.

NOAA is requesting $477 million for the GOES-R in 2009, which is consistent with what the agency anticipated it would need at this time last year.

NASA, acting on behalf of NOAA, is expected to award the prime contract for two GOES-R satellites late this year. Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif., Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., and Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., are competing for the work.

Overall, the White House is requesting a record $4.1 billion for NOAA for next year, a 5.2 percent increase over 2008. NOAA’s satellite programs are run by its National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, which would receive $1.16 billion next year, compared to its 2008 budget of $955


other main satellite development effort is the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which is managed and funded jointly with the U.S. Air Force. NOAA’s 2009 request for the program is $288 million, about $1 million less than planned at this time last year, and $43 million less than the current budget. The Air Force’s request for the program next year is $289 million.

The NPOESS satellites, being built by Northrop Grumman Space Technology, are expected to start launching in 2013.

During a Feb. 4 conference call with reporters, NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral, said the agency has not determined the cost impact ongoing development problems with a key NPOESS sensor, the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer. But he said initial indications are that margins built into the NPOESS budget plan will be sufficient to cover any cost impacts.

As previously announced, NOAA’s request for 2009 also includes $74 million for two climate research sensors that were eliminated from the NPOESS program during a 2006 restructuring. Neither the Total Solar Irradiance Sensor nor the Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System were funded in 2008. NOAA is searching for launch opportunities for the instruments, agency budget documents show.

The Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System is a legacy instrument built by Northrop Grumman

that is flying today

on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites. It will


measurements that were to have been taken

by the Earth Radiation Budget Suite, which was deleted from the NPOESS program during the restructuring.


sensor is expected to be added to the NPOESS Preparatory Project spacecraft,

Lautenbacher said. That satellite is slated for launch in 2010 but likely faces a delay.

An additional version of the sensor could be hosted by

the first NPOESS satellite, even though program officials have said

the spacecraft’s design is locked down to mitigate risk, according to NOAA spokesman Anson Franklin

. The degree of risk will be weighed as officials consider the various options for getting that sensor into orbit, he said.