In this week’s issue of The Space Review, Taylor Dinerman examines the NPOESS weather satellite system, a program whose problems have been discussed here recently. Dinerman makes a good point in that much of NPOESS’ woes can be traced to the program’s technologies, which are far ahead of previous systems. As he puts it, “Why do so many US government technology development efforts aim at revolutionary improvements in capability, instead of settling for incremental progress?” It can explain not only the problems facing other large space programs, but also the concerns raised by Congress about future systems, like TSAT and Space Based Radar.
Meanwhile, this week’s issue of Aviation Week reports that the DOD is facing a “perfect storm” caused by the convergence of “operational, budgetary, manpower and transformation crises” that could threaten any number of procurement efforts. The article primarily focuses on aviation, not space, programs, but it’s clear that space is weighing on the minds of many planners at the Pentagon. In particular, the article notes how those working on the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) have seen their effort shifted to “a lightweight budget drill” seeking minor savings that end up being swamped by cost overruns. “All the people that take QDR seriously as a policy exercise spend 3-4 months scraping together a couple of hundred million dollars in savings from here and there in order to buy the new policy initiatives,” one source told the magazine. “Then, in comes a bill for a $1.3-billion fix on a satellite program.”