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Bad timing for NASA’s climate program: The launch of the first Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS-1), a project of both NOAA and NASA, has been delayed from March 2017 to at least July because of problems with one instrument as well as delays in completing the satellite’s ground systems.
“The main factors delaying the JPSS-1 launch are technical issues discovered during environmental testing of the satellite and the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) instrument,” Leslie said in a statement. ATMS issues were also one of the reasons for the previous delay. In addition, he cited “challenges in the completion of the common ground system” that will be used for JPSS and other NOAA polar-orbiting weather satellites.
The latest decays prompted NOAA to seek financial relief for the program. A provision in the continuing resolution (CR) passed Dec. 9, which funds the federal government through late April at 2016 levels, gives NOAA the authority to spend at higher levels for the JPSS program.
The goal with the JPSS program was to combine NOAA weather satellites with NASA’s climate research satellites. The program however has had technical and budgetary problems, as this is not the first launch delay or cost overrun.. Moreover, the origins of the JPSS program came from a failed effort in the 1990s and 2000s [pdf] to combine NOAA, Defense Department, and NASA weather satellites under what was then called the NPOESS program. When that program was restructured in 2010 to become JPSS the Defense Department pulled out.
Considering the strong rumors now suggesting that the Trump administration plans to slash NASA’s climate budget while shifting the remains of the program to NOAA, this delay of JPSS-1 is an especially good example of bad timing. It provides the new administration strong ammunition for such proposed changes.