Steady Funding for NOAA's Satellite Programs in FY2017

Steady Funding for NOAA's Satellite Programs in FY2017

The President’s FY2017 budget request for NOAA’s satellite programs holds no surprises.  instead, there is steady funding for the GOES-R and JPSS next generation weather satellite programs and the next two satellites in the JPSS series.

NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) operates the nation’s civil weather satellites in geostationary and polar orbits.   After many years of development, launch of the first of the next block of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), GOES-R, is scheduled for October of this year (a six month slip from its previous launch date of March 2016, which was revealed in December 2015).   It is one of four satellites procured under the “GOES-R” program (the others are -S, -T, and -U, all of which will be assigned numbers once they are in orbit) for which NOAA is requesting $753 million in FY2017.  This is a reduction from FY2016 since the program has passed its peak development phase.

Similarly, the first two Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft are past their peak development years.  The request for FY2017 is $787 million, down from $809 million last year.  The first JPSS is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of FY2017 (which is the first quarter of calendar year 2017), with the second expected at the end of FY2021.

NOAA is gearing up to procure the next two JPSS spacecraft for launches in FY2026 and FY2031 under the Polar Follow On (PFO) program.  It had to fight for PFO funding last year, but in the end Congress provided the full $370 million.  The request for FY2017 is $393 million.

NOAA also operates the DSCOVR space weather satellite and is requesting funds to plan for the next space weather satellite.  Last year Congress gave it only half of the $2.5 million request.  NOAA is back this year with another $2.5 million request.

Congress is keenly interested in whether NOAA can procure some of the satellite data needed for its numerical weather models from commercial sources.  NOAA is reticent because it is not certain whether the commercial data are accurate, verifiable and reliable.  To kick things off, Congress added $3 million to the NESDIS budget in FY2016 for a pilot program to purchase, evaluate, and calibrate such data on a competitive basis.  For FY2017, NOAA has named this “Competitive/Adaptive Data Exploitation” and is requesting $5 million.

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