WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects to spend up to $12.9 billion on its new polar-orbiting weather satellite program through 2028, a sum that will cover the cost of new civilian spacecraft needed following the cancellation of a Pentagon weather satellite system, according to a Feb. 21 briefing by the head of the NOAA’s satellite division.
The revised life-cycle cost estimate for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) is up $1 billion from the previous estimate and covers an additional four years of operations NOAA attributes to “an extended period of satellite performance,” according to briefing charts posted on the NOAA Satellite and Information Service website.
NOAA is asking Congress for $916.4 million for the JPSS program for 2013, a funding level the agency says is needed to ensure that JPSS-1 — the first of two planned satellites in the series — is ready to launch by early 2018.
The $12.9 billion life-cycle cost estimate covers more than just building, launching and operating the JPSS-1 and JPSS-2 spacecraft, according to the charts, which Mary Kicza, NOAA assistant administrator for satellite and information services, used to brief her division’s stakeholders.
The estimate also includes building and launching a Total Solar Irradiance Sensor that was to have flown on the Pentagon’s recently canceled Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS). The demise of DWSS also puts the onus on the JPSS program to build and launch free-flying spacecraft to host two other payloads that were slated to fly on the military system: search-and-rescue transponders compatible with the international Cospas-Sarsat system for locating people in distress, and the Advanced Data Collection System, used to monitor instrumented ocean buoys. Neither payload can be accommodated on the JPSS-1 satellite platform.