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Government Accountability Office, Polar Weather Satellites: NOAA Identified Ways to Mitigate Data Gaps, but Contingency Plans and Schedules Require Further Attention (GAO-13-676) (Sept. 11, 2013) (full-text).
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program in 2010 to replace aging polar weather satellites and provide critical environmental data used in forecasting weather and measuring variations in climate. However, program officials anticipate a gap in satellite data between the time that the S-NPP satellite reaches the end of its life and the JPSS-1 satellite becomes operational. Given the criticality of satellite data to weather forecasts, the likelihood of a significant satellite data gap, and the potential impact of a gap on the health and safety of the U.S. population and economy, GAO added this issue to its High Risk List in 2013.
The GAO was asked to review the JPSS program because of the importance of polar satellite data. The GAO's objectives were to (1) evaluate NOAA's progress in sustaining the continuity of NOAA's polar-orbiting satellite system through S-NPP and JPSS satellites; (2) evaluate the quality of NOAA's program schedule; and (3) assess NOAA's plans to address potential gaps in polar satellite data.
The GAO recommends that NOAA develop a mechanism to track the usage of its satellite products, establish a complete integrated master schedule, address weaknesses in component schedules, and address shortfalls in polar satellite gap contingency plans.