Trump administration planning to cut NOAA weather satellite programs
Budget documents developed by the administration for the fiscal year 2018 budget proposal call for a 17 percent cut in NOAA’s overall budget, and a 22 percent cut for NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which develops and operates weather satellites.
The effect of the cut on NOAA’s ongoing and planned weather satellites from the proposed cut is unclear.
The administration plans to release an outline of its budget proposal later this month, with the full budget proposal to follow by May. [Washington Post]
A Delta 4 launch scheduled for this week has been delayed by a booster issue. ULA said Saturday that the launch, scheduled for Wednesday, will postponed to no earlier that March 14. The company said the delay was caused by a “first stage booster issue discovered during standard prelaunch inspections” but didn’t disclose additional details. The launch will place the ninth Wideband Global Satcom satellite into orbit. [SpaceNews]
Despite the budget uncertainty, NOAA and NASA are moving ahead with plans for launching a future weather satellite. NASA announced Friday it had awarded a contract to ULA for the Atlas 5 launch of the JPSS-2 polar-orbiting weather satellite in 2021. The contract value is $170.6 million, including launch and related services. The first JPSS satellite is scheduled to launch later this year on one of the last Delta 2 missions. [SpaceNews]
NASA is soliciting ideas for payloads that could fly on a mysterious satellite it may acquire from another government agency. NASA issued a request for information last month for payloads that could fly on a mission called the NASA Science/Technology Platform Satellite around 2021. The spacecraft bus is a Boeing “spinner” design that NASA says it is in discussions with the Air Force to acquire as excess government property from another agency. The agencies involved, and Boeing, have offered few additional details about the origin of the satellite bus. Outside experts think the it could be a spare bus from a National Reconnaissance Office data-relay satellite program. [SpaceNews]
Spaceflight is moving nearly 90 satellites that were to launch as secondary payloads on a Falcon 9 mission to other launches. The company had planned to launch the satellites on a payload adapter called Sherpa that would fly on a Falcon 9 as a secondary payload to the Formosat-5 mission. However, Spaceflight said last week that after being informed by SpaceX of “significant” delays in that launch, it’s moved those payloads to other missions, including Spaceflight’s own dedicated Falcon 9 mission later this year and an unnamed “international launch” this summer or fall. [SpaceNews]
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos may offer new details about his company’s plans this week. Bezos is scheduled to give a keynote at the Satellite 2017 conference Tuesday morning in Washington, where he may offer new details about his company’s launch plans, including customers for the vehicles the company has under development. Bezos confirmed a report last week that the company has a concept for a lunar lander, called Blue Moon, for delivering cargo to the lunar surface that it has pitched to NASA. [Wall Street Journal]
The former head of Stratolaunch has joined a smallsat company. York Space Systems announced that Chuck Beames has joined the company’s board as its executive chairman, and will also be the company’s chief strategy officer. Beames was previously president of Vulcan Aerospace and executive director of Stratolaunch, but left the company last year. York Space Systems is an emerging smallsat manufacturer, and last week announced it was developing an automated manufacturing facility on the campus of Metropolitan State University in Denver. [SpaceNews]
The operator of the first Belorussian communications satellite says it’s finding success lining up customers for it. Belintersat-1, built and launched by China Great Wall Industry Corp., launched in January 2016. State-owned operator Belintersat said it’s done a “good job” finding customers for the satellite, but has not disclosed what fraction of the satellite’s C- and Ku-band capacity has been sold. [SpaceNews]
The Canadian Space Agency has further narrowed the pool of candidates for its next astronaut class. The agency said Friday that 32 finalists remain under consideration, after cutting the original set of 3,700 applicants down to 72 earlier this year. CSA plans to select one or two people this summer to become astronauts. [Global News]
Hearings regarding a permit for building a controversial telescope in Hawaii have concluded. The “contested case” hearing for a permit to construct the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) atop Mauna Kea wrapped up last week, after 44 days of testimony from 71 people. A hearings officer will later recommend to a state land board whether a permit should be granted. An earlier permit for the TMT was revoked by the state supreme court after finding that the state didn’t follow proper procedures for granting the permit. Plans to build the TMT on Mauna Kea have prompted protests by native Hawaiian groups. [AP]