A U.S. Senate spending panel has endorsed a "really bold and somewhat controversial" shift in how the U.S. government builds weather and climate science satellites.
The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee today approved a fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill that would shift responsibility for building four major satellite systems from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to NASA. The move—which would need approval from the full Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the White House to become reality—marks the latest twist in a long and contentious debate over how to sustain an expensive and delay-prone satellite fleet.
"We're doing this because we've said to NOAA, time and time again, that they need to get their act together," Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the chair of the subpanel, said at today's vote on the bill. "They have had continuing cost overruns, and the satellites are consuming a bigger share of the NOAA budget. So we're going to let NOAA operate the satellites and NASA buy them and manage them."