NOAA 98-030


The Commerce Department today announced the Air Force has transferred control of its weather satellites to the Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as part of a program to promote efficiency and cut down public expense. The move, a major milestone in the merger of civilian and military weather satellite programs, will save an estimated $1.3 billion in taxpayer funds, the department said.

The merger was directed by President Clinton on May 5, 1994. The transfer of operations convergence is an interim step toward development of a single, integrated environmental satellite system designed to meet civilian and military needs. NOAA will operate the satellites from its Satellite Operations Control Center in Suitland, Md.

"The transfer of DMSP operations to NOAA's integrated program office marks another major, important milestone in our commitment to implementing weather satellite convergence, and building a true operational partnership to satisfy the requirements of the civil and military weather communities," said Robert S. Winokur, NOAA's assistant administrator for satellite and information services.

"This transition has been a tremendous teaming success story," said Brigadier General Robert C. Hinson, Air Force Space Command, director of operations. "Since the President's decision, everyone has worked together to keep this project on time and on target." The original schedule called for the transfer to take place no later than June 30, 1998.

The Air Force will close the 6th Space Operations Squadron after nearly 35 years of continuous operations at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and eliminate 228 active duty positions.

NOAA's Suitland facility will become the primary location for providing functions associated with command and control of all U.S. weather satellites, including early orbit checkout following launch operations, satellite state of health maintenance, and satellite sensor and payload management. Beginning in October 1998, the Air Force Reserves will operate an alternate DMSP command and control facility at Falcon AFB, Colo.

NOAA currently operates two polar-orbiting satellites, NOAA-12 and NOAA-14. NOAA-15, launched May 13, is currently being checked out. NOAA also operates the nation's geostationary weather satellites, GOES-8, overlooking the East Coast and well out into the Atlantic Ocean, and GOES-9, overlooking the West Coast and well out into the Pacific Ocean, including Hawaii. GOES-10 is currently stored in orbit. With the transfer of the Defense satellites, NOAA also is operating five DMSP satellites.

The first satellite in the new system will be available for launch in July 2007, after NOAA and the Defense Department have both exhausted the satellites currently in the "pipeline."