NOAA Administrator Expresses Concern over Satellite Contractor Delay

NOAA’s top official today expressed concern that a contractor’s slow development of a critical new sensor will delay its delivery for a scheduled launch of a precursor mission for the National Polar-Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS).

Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., speaking at a meeting of the tri-agency NPOESS Executive Committee (EXCOM), pointed to continued problems with the contractor’s performance on the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), which is scheduled to fly on NASA’s NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP).

“I am extremely disappointed with the pace of the contractor in analyzing and closing potential quality, workmanship, and testing issues in the VIIRS program,” said Lautenbacher. “The contractor’s lack of progress on fixing several technical issues is unacceptable and has resulted in significant delays to the original VIIRS planned delivery.”

At the meeting, the EXCOM acknowledged that the VIIRS delivery would be delayed so that the sensor contractor could properly address technical issues uncovered during the most recent test phase of the sensor. The VIIRS instrument delivery delay will push back the launch of NPP, a data continuity and risk reduction mission.

As corrective measures, the EXCOM directed the NPOESS contractors to increase management oversight at the VIIRS facility. The EXCOM also directed the Program Executive Officer for NPOESS to conduct bi-weekly reviews with the contractor’s senior-level executives.

Lautenbacher said, “We will continue to remain vigilant so that the current problems do not have a cost or schedule impact on the NPOESS program.”

VIIRS is a new, advanced sensor that will collect visible and infrared imagery and data for weather forecasting and climate monitoring.

NPOESS will combine NOAA’s current polar-orbiting satellite operations with the Department of Defense’s Meteorological Satellite Program into one system. With the launch of the first spacecraft planned for 2013, NPOESS will bring improved data and imagery, allowing for better weather forecasts, severe-weather monitoring and detection of climate change.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.