More Accurate Satellite Docs will be Required from U.S. NOAA
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has revealed a new report which concerns Satellite Industry closely. According to office’s 86 page report, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) needs to ensure its timelines for launching and obtaining satellite information are accurate, clear and fully documented.
In doing so, and providing more accurate and analyzed data, GAO believes NOAA and Congress, which funds NOAA missions, will be able to better evaluate the life of a spacecraft and requisite funds to launch new satellites when necessary.
What is NOAA responsible for?
NOAA is in charge of launching and maintaining several weather-related satellites and currently manages two weather satellite programs:
– Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES ) which is a geostationary program.
– Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) which is a polar-orbiting satellite program
Those programs provides critical environmental data used in weather forecasts and warnings.
Both programs measurements feed into forecasts for severe weather, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards. And also for assessments of environmental hazards such as droughts, forest fires, poor air quality and harmful coastal waters.
“NOAA could do more”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently working to acquire the next generation of satellites to replace existing spacecraft that are reaching the end of their mission lives. However, The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found NOAA could do a more coherent job of publishing new timelines for these replacements such as depicting its expectations for how long its operational satellites will last and when it plans to launch new satellites.
From the report:
“NOAA updated the geostationary and polar-orbiting flyout charts three times between March 2014 and January 2016. Key changes included adding newly planned satellites; removing a satellite that reached the end of its life; and adjusting planned dates for when satellites would launch, begin operations, and reach the end of their lives.”
However, in its efforts to provide updated flyout charts to Congress, GAO finds NOAA has not consistently ensured that the data were supported by stringent analysis of the satellites’ health and availability. Without requiring that the satellite programs conduct regular assessments of satellite availability, it is difficult to determine how long satellites will last. It also found the reports were not accurate and consistent with supporting program data, clear in how a satellite’s extended life is portrayed or fully documented.
“Part of the reason for these issues is that NOAA has not established a policy that includes these steps. Until NOAA addresses the shortfalls in its practices and updates its policy to help ensure the flyout charts are accurate, consistent, and well-documented, it runs an increased risk that its flyout charts will be misleading to Congress and may lead to less-than-optimal decisions,” the report also says.