Report: U.S. Earth-monitoring Satellites 'Need Upgrades'
January 17, 2007 7:30 PM
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With more missions to Mars and the moon planned, researchers are forgetting the importance of the needs of people on Earth
A recent report done by the National Research Council has found that the U.S. satellite system that monitor's the environment and climate needs on Earth
must undergo vast upgrades or scientists may lose ability
to accurately forecast hurricanes, severe thunderstorms and winter storms. The report also called for NASA to launch 17 new satellites to launch by 2020. NASA and NOAA now have 25 satellites in orbit that specifically only conduct environmental measurements and observations – however, many of them are working past their initial expected service time.
“This is the most critical time in human history, with the population never before so big and with stresses growing on the Earth,” said Richard Anthes, co-chair on the committee which wrote the report.
The National Research Council of the National Academies also warned that by 2010, the number of instruments on satellites for Earth-observing purposes will be cut by around 40 percent.
The NOAA yearly budget of $1 billion per year for environmental satellites
must continue to remain available to the organization.
Spending $3 billion per year on new equipment and satellite missions through the year 2020 would sufficiently get Earth-observation back on the level it needs to be, according to space officials.
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RE: This is a cry for more money
1/18/2007 8:06:00 PM
Well costs have been rising due to the lack of demand for satellites and the nature of the industry. Each satellite is custom built. It's not like an airplane where they design it once and build a few hundred before a redesign. Even satellites within the same block or family are different because even with the same design, technology changes while they're building each one.
For example, DirecTV buys 3 satellites of pretty much the same capacity and design. Boeing starts building the first one. Technology changes, so they want to incorporate the new stuff in satellites 2 and 3. By the time they get to 3, DirecTV wants so much additional stuff, the satellite design just won't handle it easily, and there needs to be a redesign. It's even worse with government satellites. All this leads to cost, which leads to low demand, which again drives up cost.
What the industry needs is a kick in the pants that will double or triple demand. The future does look a little brighter since from 2010-2015 many satellites will be running out of propellant and there will be a significant boom in demand to replace the old ones.
"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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