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NPOESS: another example of technological overreach?

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Wed Nov 30, 2005 4:42 am
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In 1994, the Clinton Administration decided that the distinction between civilian and military weather satellites was no longer relevant and abolished it. In its place, it created the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) managed by an Integrated Program Office (IPO) made up of representatives from the Defense Department, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Delays and cost overruns have pushed the launch of the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP), which will carry prototype versions of the sensors, back to 2009 at the earliest. The definitive versions of the spacecraft will, perhaps, be launched in 2012. The system as a whole will not become fully operational before 2013 or 2014 at best.

On November 16, 2005, in testimony before the full House Science Committee, a representative of the prime contractor, Northrop Grumman Space Technology, said that when finished, “NPOESS will give civilians more precise advance warning of hurricanes and severe weather… and will revolutionize battlefield situational awareness with timely knowledge of the weather for use by the military to its advantage during conflicts and operations. Observation to delivery time will be just 15 minutes compared to the hours that are needed today.” This gives some idea as to the extraordinary goals involved in the program. It also explains why the delays and cost overruns should surprise no one. Read more at The Space Review.

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