NOAA chief slams contractors for satellite delays

The head of the nation's lead climatic research agency sharply criticized Northrop Grumman and Raytheon for delays in fixing problems with a key weather sensor planned for use on a satellite system that monitors worldwide environmental conditions.

Conrad Lautenbacher, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, told a meeting this week of the tri-agency executive committee for the $12.5 billion National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System that he was "extremely disappointed" in the pace of work by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon to resolve problems with an important weather instrument on the system.

The instrument, called the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite, is designed to collect atmospheric data, including information on clouds and sea surface temperature.

"The contractor's lack of progress on fixing several technical issues is unacceptable and has resulted in significant delays to the original VIIRS planned delivery," Lautenbacher said

NOAA and the Defense Department are jointly developing the system in partnership with NASA.

In April 2007, the Government Accountability Office reported that the NPOESS program had experienced "significant difficulties" with the VIIRS sensor, including image quality and reliability during testing. The GAO also reported that due to an increase in costs, the number of satellites had been reduced from six to four, with the launch of the first pushed back from 2009 to 2013.

The sensor is slated to first go into orbit on a NASA test satellite called the NPOESS Preparatory Project, whose launch date has slipped from 2006 to 2010. NOAA said the current problems would further delay VIIRS, but did not say by how much.

Dave Desilets, a spokesman for Raytheon, which is developing the sensor as a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman, the prime NPOESS contractor, said the delays have been caused by a cryoradiator designed to cool the electronics to minus 315 degrees. Desilets said Raytheon has made modifications to the cryoradiator "to increase its robustness [and] to ensure it could better withstand the launch environment. We were able to optimize the design as a result of this work, and the cryoradiator has successfully passed the scheduled vibration environmental tests."

Sally Koris, a spokeswoman for Northrop Grumman, said her company is working with NOAA to insure the satellite program remains on cost and schedule, and that the spacecraft are on schedule and within budget.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.