DOD expects weather satellite decision in months

The Defense Department is considering a plan to launch smaller, less expensive weather satellites as a way to close a possible gap in weather forecasting capability following cancellation of the multibillion-dollar National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environment Satellite Systems (NPOESS), Reuters reported via the Chicago Tribune.

Douglas Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, told the wire service that Pentagon officials are considering replacing the large satellites like NPOESS that could have cost at least $15 billion with smaller satellites expected to be priced at about $300 million.

Launching smaller satellites that could be built faster also would reduce the threat to national security in an attack on a single, larger satellite. "There are many of us who believe that we will save money when we go to a more resilient architecture because we can use smaller satellites," Loverro told Reuters.

Loverro said a decision on future weather satellite procurement is expected in the next several months.

The Pentagon terminated Northrop Grumman Corp.’s $15 billion NPOESS program in 2012. Northrop and other large satellite builders Boeing and Lockheed Martin are awaiting Air Force plans for meeting DOD weather forecasting requirements.

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