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GAO Urges NOAA to Assess Satellite Launch Costs, Based on Life Expectancy

satelliteThe Government Accountability Office has called on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to review the costs and intended benefits of its satellite launch program based on life expectancy in order to schedule investments.

GAO said Thursday NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System program continues to develop the JPSS-1 satellite in preparation for a March 2017 launch.

“However, uncertainties remained on the best timing for launching these satellites, in part because of the potential for some satellites already in orbit to last longer,” GAO noted.

GAO also urged NOAA in a May 2016 report to maintain the accuracy of changes made to satellite launch timelines and revise the draft policy that governs timeline updates.

Auditors noted that NOAA issues flyout charts to show satellite launch timelines in compliance with appropriations requirements and that the agency updates the charts as new data arrives.

“However, the charts do not always accurately reflect data from other program documentation such as the latest satellite schedules or assessments of satellite availability,” GAO said.

GAO has previously also found a lack of coordination between NOAA and the Defense Department during the Analysis of Alternatives review process, which GAO said resulted in “an incorrect assumption about the continued availability of critical weather data from European satellites.”

Auditors called on NOAA and DoD to coordinate AOA through a mechanism meant to identify roles and responsibilities the two agencies must take during the review process.

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