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U.S. Air Force eyes mixed approach for next weather satellite

U.S. Air Force eyes mixed approach for next weather satellite

The U.S. Air Force will likely opt for a mixed approach for a next-generation weather satellite that includes smaller spacecraft, according to top Air Force officials.

The Air Force plans to finish a review of possible approaches for the satellite early this summer following the collapse of the previous program due to technical and cost issues.

“It will be a much smaller satellite. We will press for that for lots of reasons,” General William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, told a space conference hosted by the Space Foundation on Tuesday. He underscored the need for more affordable satellites given expected declines in U.S. military spending.

Lieutenant General John Hyten, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, told reporters

after a speech at a space and cyber conference on Monday that the analysis of alternatives was going “extremely well” and should be done in coming months.

The review followed the 2010 collapse of a multibillion-dollar weather satellite program known as National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, or NPOESS, that was being built by Northrop Grumman Corp for the Air Force, NASA and the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The White House dismantled the NPOESS weather satellite program in 2010 after significant cost overruns and technical problems, arguing that it was far too complex to be efficient.

Northrop, Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp, and smaller players like Harris Corp, Moog Inc, ITT Exelis Corp and Orbital Sciences Corp are keeping a close eye on how the Air Force decides to structure the follow-on weather satellite program

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