Weather Satellites:

The U.S. Geostationary Satellite Program Is at a Crossroad

T-NSIAD-91-49: Published: Jul 25, 1991. Publicly Released: Jul 25, 1991.

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GAO discussed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) cooperative arrangement for developing the next generation of geostationary weather satellites, GOES-Next, focusing on: (1) cost, schedule, and technical problems; and (2) alternatives available to NOAA to remedy those problems. GAO noted that: (1) since NOAA submitted the fiscal year (FY) 1991 budget, the total estimated funding requirements increased from $1.3 billion to over $1.7 billion; (2) the first scheduled launch date of GOES-Next slipped from June 1991 to December 1992, a 3-year delay since the original June 1989 launch date; (3) reasons for past and present program difficulties included design complexity, inadequate technical management, and poor contractor coordination and workmanship; (4) the United States could experience a lack of geostationary satellite coverage if the GOES-7, the sole geostationary weather satellite now in operation, fails before GOES-Next or a replacement satellite is in orbit; (5) by February 1993, the forecast uses of GOES-7 will begin to degrade even if it remains operational, and some uses will be lost by August 1993, since a replacement satellite will not be available until late FY 1992; and (6) because of continuing problems in the GOES-Next program, NOAA began to consider delaying the program and procuring one or more foreign-owned GOES-7 satellites.

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