NEWTOWN, Conn. --- The U.S. Air Force's effort to develop new weather satellites is in disarray. Following the cancellation of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), the Air Force pursued development of a new weather satellite under the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS) program. However, that program faced funding problems and delays.
In response, the White House terminated the DWSS program and instituted the Weather Satellite Follow-On (WSF) program, which is currently undergoing risk reduction studies. However, the WSF program is itself facing multiple difficulties. The Air Force has not fully assessed all of the solutions available to address the gap in weather coverage. Furthermore, the service did not adequately cooperate with other U.S. agencies involved with weather satellites.
With these problems in mind, Congress is now deciding on a plan to take funds away from the Air Force and give them to the NRO to manage satellite purchases.
Still, the Air Force continues to work to improve the state of the program. The service is seeking solutions from industry to meet data gathering needs. It is also seeking a contractor to build a weather sensor that could be deployed on a satellite as soon as 2022.
At this time, it is not clear what exactly will happen with the Air Force's efforts to acquire new weather satellites. However, it is clear that satellites are needed, particularly to provide cloud characteristics and theater weather imagery. For those reasons, deliveries will eventually occur. While the Air Force expects to take delivery in 2022, Forecast International believes 2023 is a more likely date, as details regarding the program are decided on.