Weather Satellites First Up for Space Hearings in 114th Congress

Weather Satellites First Up for Space Hearings in 114th Congress

The first hearing of the 114th Congress focused specifically on space issues will be about weather satellites.  Two subcommittees of the House Science, Space and Technology (HSS&T) Committee will hold a hearing on February 12 on “Bridging the Gap:  America’s Weather Satellites and Weather Forecasting.”

The hearing is before HSS&T’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Subcommittee on Oversight and features witnesses from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), NOAA and NASA.  One of the NOAA witnesses, Alexander McDonald, is also the President of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

NOAA’s satellite programs are under the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) and its new associate administrator, Steve Volz, is one of the witnesses (he is Mary Kicza’s successor).  The NOAA/NESDIS budget request is $2.38 billion, of which $2.189 billion is for procurement, acquisition and construction of satellites.   It is virtually all for “weather” satellites if one includes space weather in the definition.  The Obama Administration is proposing that responsibility for all civil earth observation satellites other than weather (including space weather) be shifted to NASA, such as ocean altimetry and the Total Solar and Spectral Irradiance Sensor (TSIS).  That likely will be one of the topics explored at the hearing.

Funding is ramping down for the first two Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft and the four spacecraft in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) series, but they still consume most of the budget request:  $808.9 million and $871.8 million respectively.  This year’s request includes a new line item for the next two JPSS satellites, JPSS-3 and -4, under the designation “Polar Follow On.”  That request is $370 million.  NOAA is also requesting $2.5 million to begin planning for another space weather satellite.   The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), scheduled for launch on Sunday (February 8), has a design life that ends in FY2019, NOAA says, so it needs to begin looking at a follow-on.

The hearing is at 10:00 am ET in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.

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