Andrew Freedman at Climate Central writes about The Space Race is On for Climate: Weather Privatization:
NOAA promoting next generation of GOES-R series of satellites
This is what NASA and NOAA have been working on. Looks pretty impressive. Trouble is they are falling years behind on their satellite development schedules and are dramatically overbudget.
Throw in years of mismanagement and stir in manufacturing difficulties, and it has been a recipe for trouble in the form of a gap in satellite coverage that could erode the accuracy of weather forecasts. NOAA has projected that a void in polar satellite coverage is likely to begin in 2017 and last for up to a year or more, due to a mismatch between the design lifetime of a current satellite and the launch window for its replacement. That interruption is likely to undermine weather forecasts, and leave climate scientists with less research data. The government is not only behind schedule and overbudget on many of its upcoming weather and climate satellite programs, but it is also cutting back on what it funds, much to the dismay of scientists.The now-familiar scenario where government agency is strangled by budget cuts until it's forced to look to private industry to continue its mission.
For example, a relatively inexpensive network of small satellites that could provide thousands of measurements per day of temperature, humidity, and air pressure in the upper atmosphere was left in the lurch in May due to mandatory budget cuts known as the sequester. NOAA’s decision to use the $13.7 million it had earmarked for a satellite program, known as COSMIC-2, in order to avoid furloughing weather forecasters during hurricane season was a Pyrrhic victory. It also angered the government of Taiwan, with whom the U.S. is developing the system, and may have served as a warning shot for any country hoping to partner with the U.S.
And so private industry is stepping into the void, with companies such as Skybox Imaging with its mini-fridge sized satellite, so much more flexible and easier to launch.
Still, this would not be the first time the government has tried to solve its satellite data problems through privatization. A similar dynamic played out in the intelligence arena during the past decade, when private companies such as DigitalGlobe and GeoEye (the two have since merged) launched satellites to capture super-high resolution images for secretive spy agencies, including the National Reconnaissance Office and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.Indeed, what could possibly go wrong?