Report Assigns Big Price To Military Weather Sats

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WASHINGTON — A next-generation U.S. Department of Defense weather satellite system likely will cost between $4.4 billion and $6.1 billion, according to a September report from the Congressional Budget Office.

The report, “Options for Modernizing Military Weather Satellites,” examines three options of varying capability for a follow-on system. The cost estimates include production, launch and on-orbit operation of two satellites through 2037.

The costliest option includes upgraded versions of an infrared imager, microwave imager and space environment sensor, according to the report. A midrange option, which calls for using an infrared imager developed for the next generation of U.S. civil polar-orbiting weather satellites, would cost $4.9 billion. The lowest-cost option would utilize current-generation versions of the infrared and microwave imager.

Congress last year directed the Air Force to cancel plans for a Defense Weather Satellite System to replace the service’s aging Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.

The Air Force has two Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellites left on the ground and plans to launch the first one as early as October 2013, with the second one to follow as needed.