Congress, Other

House hearing on polar weather satellites

A day after the full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee tackled the issue of NASA’s human spaceflight program, two of its subcommittees will take on today another key topic: the nation’s polar weather satellite programs. The Investigations and Oversight subcommittee is joining with the Energy and Environment subcommittee for a hearing titled “From NPOESS to JPSS: An Update on the Nation’s Restructured Polar Weather Satellite Program” at 10 am EDT. Witnesses include NOAA deputy administrator Kathryn Sullivan, NASA associate administrator Chris Scolese, and David Powner of the GAO.

There have been long-running concerns about the future of the nation’s polar weather satellite programs, which led the administration last year to cancel the joint civil-military NPOESS, separating the civil Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) from the military’s Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS). In June, Sullivan gave what she described as a “pretty bleak picture” for the future of the civil efforts, warning of a gap in coverage as existing satellites reach the end of their lives while JPSS replacements face funding issues. The military’s DWSS is beyond the scope of this hearing, but its future isn’t looking too good, either: Senate appropriators moved last week to deny funding to DWSS, seeking to recompete the contract for future defense weather satellites rather than repurpose Northrop Grumman’s former NPOESS contract for this.

17 comments to House hearing on polar weather satellites

  • Rhyolite

    We have money for pork rockets but not for genuinely useful things like weather satellites. I don’t wonder why this congress has a 12% approval rating, I just wonder who the 12% are and what they are smoking.

  • chance

    “I just wonder who the 12% are and what they are smoking.”

    Possible answer to the first part of your question: lobbyists, corporate recipients of the pork, and the representative’s families. Answer to 2nd part: rolls of $100 bills I assume.

  • Bennett

    The DoD needs to be tucked under the protective wing of NASA where they will be nurtured and provided with all the cool looking powerpoint satellite demos that money can buy.

    Besides, if ever built, the SLS will be able to launch 500 marines at a time (with gear!), thus insuring our continued military dominance of space.

  • John Malkin

    Rhyolite wrote @ September 23rd, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    We have money for pork rockets but not for genuinely useful things like weather satellites

    We don’t but that doesn’t seem to matter.

    I like chance’s answer.

  • spacermase

    Bennett wrote @ September 23rd, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I see what you did there :-D

  • E.P. Grondine

    hi chance –

    I suppose one alternative to this problem would be for Congress to simply contract the problem to WalMart, and let them buy a satellite from the Chinese.

    But they’d have to act immediately. While China is taking US dollars today, there’s no telling what tomorrow may bring.

    I hope your garden does well this winter – they’re predicting cold weather.

    Perhaps Congress’s concept is that if they don’t fund the polar weather satellite, the weather will warm up.

  • Bennett


    A small parody was in order. Glad you caught it!

  • vulture4

    The Representatives from the Space Coast, Adams and Posey, want to eliminate NASA climate research, useless to Florida because it “supports” global warming, which they “oppose”. Similarly, Rick Perry does not “believe in” global warming. NASA data, on the other hand, suggests climate change is indeed occurring. However most NASA employees, at least in Texas, support Perry. Go figure.

  • Das Boese

    vulture4 wrote @ September 24th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    What’s really stupid about this is that climate and weather research would be just as vital and important even if there was no manmade global warming.

  • @Rhyolite:

    We have money for pork rockets but not for genuinely useful things like weather satellites.

    So mismanaged unmanned programs are okay?

  • vulture4

    If necessary, replace the managers. The weather satellite program itself, unlike Constellation, is really needed.

  • @vulture4: Isn’t that precisely what Congress is seeking?

  • vulture4

    Why the program is over budget is certainly a legitimate question, and not one I can claim to answer. But here are some ideas.

    The biggest change has already been made, the split between NOAA/NASA and DOD. Merging the programs in the first place was obviously, in hindsight, a mistake; having worked NASA/DOD teams myself I would suggest that while individuals in both organizations work well together, the organizations are separated by such a vast gulf both administratively and culturally that attempting to collaborate on a major program like this was a fool’s errand. The involvement of three separate agencies (NOAA, NASA and DOD) only made it worse. This at least has been corrected.

    Second, Chairman Hall’s (R-TX) pillorying of Kethryn Sullivan on the question of climate change, and his party’s long fight to stamp out government spending on anything that smacks of support for the subversive Democratic propaganda of climate change, which is, in his view, just a plot to limit the growth of the Texas energy industry, suggests that Congressional micromanagement and obstructionism may have been a factor. Dr. Sullivan’s hurried defense that NASA had already eliminated every transistor on the satelite that might provide any information on climate supports this.

  • Rhyolite

    “Merging the programs in the first place was obviously, in hindsight, a mistake;”

    Merging programs usually is a mistake with F-111B, JSF, and even Shuttle being examples of programs that suffered from ‘Jointness’. There are always non-overlapping requirements. The problem is that requirements do not add linearly. It is usually better to build something to do one thing well and then re-purpose later if it is suitable rather than to try to serve multiple masters from the beginning.

  • @vulture4: What does global warming alarmism have to do with anything?

  • vulture4

    I would have said absolutely nothing until I watched the complete video of the hearing. I was frankly shocked to see the Committee Chairman say openly that the reason the program was over budget was (to admittedly paraphrase him as I do not remember the exact words, and I apologize for the capitals) “don’t we all know the REAL reason this program is over budget is that NASA is secretly spending money to study CLIMATE CHANGE, forbidden knowledge which we specifically told them not to even think about.”

  • @vulture4: Setting aside the poetic license you take with Hall’s words, I fail to see what the problem is. Weather satellites are not going away.

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