Timing of replacement's launch may mean 1-year gap.
A handout photo of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite image showing Hurricane Sandy off the coast of Florida on October 26, 2012. A year or more without crucial satellites could result in shaky forecasts about storms like Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to hit the Northeastern Seaboard early next week. (NOAA via The New York Times) -- EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The United States is facing a year or more without crucial satellites that provide invaluable data for predicting storm tracks, a result of years of mismanagement and underfunding, according to several recent official reviews.
The looming gap in satellite coverage could result in shaky forecasts about storms like Hurricane Sandy, which is now expected to hit the northeast seaboard next week.
Experts have grown increasingly alarmed in the past two years because the polar satellites are nearing or beyond their life expectancies, and the launching of the replacement, JPSS-1, has slipped until 2017, probably too late to avoid a gap of at least a year. This summer, independent reviews by the Commerce inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and a team of outside experts each questioned the government's cost estimates for the program, criticized the program's managers and called for remedies. The project is run by the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, along with NASA.
In response, top Commerce and NOAA officials Sept. 18 ordered what they called an urgent restructuring. "There is no more critical strategic issue for our weather satellite programs than the risk of gaps in satellite coverage," Jane Lubchenco, the undersecretary of Commerce responsible for NOAA, wrote in ordering the changes.
In approving stopgap financing, Congress demanded a written plan by next week showing how NOAA intended to stay on schedule and within a strict limit -- about $900 million a year.
NEW YORK TIMES