Weather Satellite Reboot

Congress terminated the Defense Weather Satellite System in the newly enacted 2012 defense appropriations legislation, leaving the Air Force to go back and devise a new strategy for future space-based weather monitoring. DWSS, borne out of the cancelled tri-agency NPOESS weather satellite program, was the planned successor to legacy Defense Meteorological Satellite Program spacecraft. But lawmakers last year voiced concern over DWSS’ costs and fielding schedule and instead favored continued weather sensor development and requirements definition that would lead to a new satellite that would be openly competed. As a result, the spending overseers eliminated all but $43 million of the service’s $445 million request for DWSS development in this fiscal year. They stipulated that the Air Force use the $43 million to cover its DWSS termination liability. They also added $125 million in a separate funding line for “weather satellite follow-on activities.” An Air Force Space Command representative told the Daily Report that officials are “still determining the appropriate future path given these reductions.” The immediate result, according to AFSPC, will be the extension of DMSP operations by launching the remaining two satellites in the series, DMSP-19 and DMSP-20, to provide environmental data into the mid-2020s.