Obama Threatens Another Weather Satellite and an Ocean Satellite
December 9, 2011 • 11:11AM

The Obama Administration has informed its European partners that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NAOO) will not be able to provide three sensing instruments for Europe's next-generation polar-orbiting satellite, due to "budget challenges." The EPS-SG is planned to be in service in 2019 to succeed Europe's current Metop satellites. Polar-orbiting satellites are critical to observe Earth's highly dynamic polar regions, where Earth meets interplanetary space. Europe says it will likely have to "de-scope" the mission, that is, they do not have the funds to replace the instruments.

Although the Defense Department and NOAA also have polar-orbiting satellites in operation, each is Sun-synchronous, seeing each place on the Earth at only one local time of day. Fleets of satellites, in different orbits, create a high-fidelity picture of activity at the poles, observing polar regions at different times of day.

The second piece of bad news from NOAA to Europe, was that it has not yet been able to secure funding to launch the joint Jason-3 ocean altimetry satellite, which Europe is building. (Data describing the topography of the land forms under the oceans from Jason-2 has recently been used to explain why and how tsunamis form and proagate). NOAA received $20 million of the $50 million it asked for in FY11, towards the cost of the launch vehicle. That has already delayed launch one year, to 2014. Now, NOAA has been told that the FY12 budget would also hold funding to $20 million. The American and European naval forces are among the users of Jason data.