NOAA 99-R327
Contact: Pat Viets


John Cunningham has been named director of a tri-agency environmental satellite program that is expected to save American taxpayers some $1.8 billion, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today.

The program is combining the country's military and civilian environmental satellite programs into a single system. Currently four U.S. polar-orbiting satellites are used to collect meteorological, oceanographic, climatic, and space environment data. Two satellites are operated by NOAA, and two by the Defense Department's Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. Under the new system the United States will provide two satellites, and the Europeans a third.

As director of the Integrated Program Office in Silver Spring, Md., Cunningham oversees a staff composed of NOAA, Defense Department, and NASA personnel. Under the system, NOAA provides support for satellite and ground segment operations and will interface with national and international civil users of the data. The Defense Department is responsible for systems acquisitions. NASA develops and inserts new cost-effective technologies that will enhance the ability of the converged system to meet its operational requirements.

"I am looking forward to taking the nation's environmental satellites into a new era of teamwork and international cooperation," Cunningham said. "My experience with multiagency and multisensor satellites should prove extremely valuable in this endeavor."

Cunningham served in the Air Force for 30 years. During his career, he spent 25 years building and operating satellites and space-based remote sensors. He had several assignments with the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. Most recently, he was program director for a satellite system at the National Reconnaissance Office.

Cunningham holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Texas A&M University and a master's degree in astronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He lives in Manassas, Va., with his wife Pat and their children Phillip, 15, and Erin Elizabeth, 12. Their son Peter, 19, is at the College of William and Mary.