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NOAA Weather Satellite Program in Trouble

The Associated Press is reporting:

The United States could face gaps in forecasting and tracking hurricanes and other severe weather because of $3 billion in cost overruns and a three-year delay in a new satellite program, officials said Wednesday.

The first of the next generation satellites may not be launched until 2012, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told the House Science Committee.

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Should the last of the current fleet fail on launch, the gap in weather data could reach four years.

"This is a depressing case of failure and perhaps incompetence," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

Polar-orbiting satellites provide daily, high-resolution images of the entire globe and account for more than 90% of the data used in civilian and military weather predictions, said Ronald Sega, undersecretary of the Air Force.

At the hearing, Rep. Vernon Ehlers said the series of deadly hurricanes this year showed how vulnerable the U.S. is to severe weather.

"We desperately need these new satellites to allow us to do an even better job of forecasting," said Ehlers, R-Mich.

Congressional investigators said the cost of the new satellite program is approaching $10 billion, compared with $6.5 billion estimated three years ago.

It is "a program in crisis," said David Powner of the Government Accountability Office.


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