GAO-10-799 September 2010 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites:
Improvements Needed in Continuity Planning and Involvement of Key Users

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Introduction

Operational geostationary environmental satellites play a critical role in our nation's weather forecasting. These satellites—which are managed by the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—provide critical information on atmospheric, oceanic, climatic, and solar conditions that help meteorologists observe and predict global and local weather events. They also provide a means to identify severe storm conditions, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, and to track the movement and intensity of these storms once they develop.

NOAA, with the aid of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is procuring the next generation of geostationary satellites, called the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) series. The GOES-R series is to replace the current series of satellites, which will likely begin to reach the end of their useful lives in approximately 2015. This new series is expected to mark the first major technological advance in GOES instrumentation since 1994. It is also considered critical to the United States' ability to maintain the continuity of data required for weather forecasting through the year 2028.