WASHINGTON The next-generation U.S. weather satellite program has been mismanaged, leaving it well over budget and behind schedule, a U.S. investigator told Congress on Thursday (May 11),
At issue is mismanagement of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (Npoess), which is overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a Commerce Department agency.
Johnnie Frazier, Commerce Department inspector general, told the House Science Committee that the budget for the "problem-plagued program" is more than $3 billion over initial estimates and 17 months behind schedule.
"Despite these problems, the contractor has received $123 million in incentive payments84 percent of the amount available under the Npoess award fee contract," Frazier testified.
NOAA merged its Polar Operational Environmental Satellite program with the Pentagon's Meteorological Satellite program in 1994 to create Npoess. Northrop Grumman Space Technology (Redondo Beach, Calif.), is the prime contractor.
The program includes development of six satellites and seven instruments, including a troubled visible and IR imagery system.
According to the government audit, the first satellite launch was scheduled for March 2008. The launch schedule has been delayed until at least mid-2010, the report warned.
Alexis Livanos, a Northrop Grumman vice president, told the committee during a November 2005 hearing: "We regret the cost growth this program has experienced and recognize the impact it has on our customers, and consequently, have taken very substantial measures to fix the issues."