Commerce Department inspector general says NOAA should reevaluate plans to launch geostationary satellites – Reuters


The OIG recommends modifying the NOAA GOES launch/storage schedule and issued the following statement:

the Commerce Department The inspector general warned last week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could increase risks in the development of its environmental satellites.

The OIG auditors did not request a postponement of the GOES-T launch, they asked NOAA to conduct an alternatives analysis regarding whether to continue the GOES program’s approach of “managing schedules towards the earliest possible launch dates”. The OIG asked, for example, why the GOES program “made changes to the spacecraft propulsion system and test campaign” that ultimately “did not simulate a general mission profile of liftoff to orbit”.

“This means that the configuration of the GOES-T satellite that entered the testing phase was not the same configuration that will launch and fly into orbit, which is a standard in NOAA and NASA spaceflight – the GOLD rule for “test while you fly – fly while you test,” the audit indicates. “This rule states that testing of all mission operation critical elements (such as the propulsion system) as they are flown greatly reduces the risk of adverse impacts to mission success. , whether it is a partial or total loss of capacity.”

NOAA/NESDIS accepted the auditors’ five recommendations, including that the agency conduct an analysis of alternatives for managing satellite launch schedules.

OIG Audit Summary of NOAA GOES Schedule, Testing and Storage.

The redesigned GOES-T is ready for launch, but NOAA should reevaluate its assumptions for satellite launch planning and storage

We found the following:

I. The program is targeting the earliest achievable launch dates in
potentially increased development risk.
II. NESDIS plans GOES launches sooner than its policy requires
without analyzing the costs.
III. NESDIS assumes that ground storage for satellites is not viable, but has not
formal compromises.

We recommend that the NOAA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations
ensure that the deputy administrator for satellite and information
Services do the following:

  1. Conduct an alternatives analysis or similar assessment to
    determine whether to continue with the management program approach
    calendars towards the earliest possible launch dates.
  2. Perform a cost-benefit analysis of the selected geostationary coverage
    availability thresholds, and update its geostationary launch policy as and when
  3. Determine the cost of operating spare satellites in orbit relative to
    alternative options, including consideration of constellation longevity
    and satellite development risks, to help optimize the acquisition and
    launch strategies.
  4. Evaluate the profitability of storing satellites on the ground and in orbit
    options using current cost, schedule and technical performance data
    that can inform NESDIS satellite storage decisions.
  5. On future series of satellites, considerations on document storage options
    early in the acquisition process to optimize satellite storage

Link to full OIG report

Note that the scan was completed later in 2021, and at that time the GOES-T launch was scheduled for February 2022, which has since been moved to March 1, 2022


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