Polar Orbiting Operational
Environmental Satellite Systems
For the past three decades, the United States has operated
separate civil and military polar-orbiting environmental
satellite systems which collect, process and distribute remotely-
sensed meteorological, oceanographic, and space environmental
data. The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is responsible for the Polar-
Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) program. Key
aspects of the POES mission include collecting atmospheric data
for weather forecasting, global climate research and emergency
search and rescue purposes.
The U.S. Department of Defense is responsible for the
Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). The mission of
DMSP is to collect and distribute global visible and infrared
cloud data and other specialized meteorological, oceanographic
and solar geophysical data to provide a survivable capability in
support of military operations.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA),
through its Earth Observing System (EOS) development efforts,
provides new remote sensing and spacecraft technologies that
could potentially improve satellite operational capabilities.
The National Performance Review, led by Vice President Gore,
called for converging the two operational satellite programs as
well as incorporating appropriate aspects of NASA's EOS in order
to reduce duplication of effort and generate cost-savings. On
May 5, 1994, President Clinton approved the convergence of the
civil and military polar-orbiting satellite systems into a single
operational program. Details of the convergence plan are
Goals and Principles
The goal of the converged program is to reduce the cost of
acquiring and operating polar orbiting operational environmental
satellites, while continuing to satisfy U.S. operational civil
and national security requirements. As part of this goal, the
operational program will incorporate appropriate aspects of
NASA's Earth Observing System.
The converged system on-orbit architecture will consist of
three low earth orbiting satellites. This is a reduction from
the current four satellites (two civilian and two military). The
orbits of the three satellites will evenly space throughout the
day to provide sufficient data refresh. The nominal equatorial
crossing times of the satellites will be 5:30, 9:30 and 1:30.
This converged system can accommodate international cooperation,
including the open distribution of environmental data.
The converged program will be conducted in accordance with
the following principles:
- operational environmental data from polar-orbiting satellites are
important to the achievement of U.S. economic, national security,
scientific, and foreign policy goals;
- assured access to operational environmental data will be provided to meet
civil and national security requirements and international obligations;
- the United States will ensure its ability to selectively deny
critical environmental data to an adversary during crisis or war yet
ensure the use of such data by U.S. and Allied military forces. Such
data will be made available to other users when it no longer has
military utility; and
- the implementing actions will be accommodated within the overall
resource policy guidance of the President.
The Departments of Commerce and Defense and NASA will create
an Integrated Program Office (IPO) for the converged polar-
orbiting operational satellite system by October 1, 1994. The
IPO will be responsible for the management, acquisition, and
operation of the converged system. The IPO will be under the
direction of a System Program Director who will report to a
triagency Executive Committee via the Department of Commerce's
Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere.
The Under Secretary-level Executive Committee will ensure
that both civil and national security requirements are satisfied.
The Executive Committee will also coordinate program plans,
budgets, and policies and will ensure agency funding commitments
are equitable and sustained.
The three agencies are developing a process for identifying,
validating, and documenting requirements for the converged
system. Those requirements will define the system baseline used
to develop agency budgets.
The Department of Commerce, through NOAA, will have lead
agency responsibility to the Executive Committee for the
converged system. NOAA will have lead agency responsibility to
support the IPO for satellite operations. NOAA will also have
the lead for interfacing with national and international civil
user communities, consistent with national security and foreign
The Department of Defense will have lead agency
responsibility to support the IPO in major systems acquisitions.
NASA will have lead agency responsibility to support the IPO in
facilitating the development and insertion of new cost-effective
technologies to meet operational requirements.
The United States will seek to implement the converged
system in a manner that encourages cooperation with foreign
governments and international organizations consistent with U.S.
requirements. The United States' European partners have been
invited to explore incorporating the European METOP (meteorological
operational mission) polar satellite series into the converged system. This
effort underscores the importance that the United States places
on environmental satellite cooperation with our European
partners. The METOP is a joint undertaking of the European
Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites
(EUMETSAT), the European Space Agency (ESA), and their member
- FY98 Budget 0603434F Ntnl Polar-orbit Ops Enviro Sat Syst (NPOESS) (Space)
- NPOESS Request for Proposals - March 1997 [partial archive - excludes boilerplate]
- NPOESS Acquisition Schedule (Baseline Schedule 1/ 9/ 98)
- National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Procurement Space and Missile Systems Center Source Selections
- NOAA Polar Satellites Homepage
- NOAA DIRECTOR, NPOESS INTEGRATED PROGRAM
- NOAA Polar Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Program: Status and Plans,
G. Mandt, J. O'Neal, & P. Taylor, Proceedings of the POES Users' Symposium, Annapolis, MD, June 10-12, 1996
- Mike Henshaw Sees a Bright Future for NASA Business and the Merger - November 3, 1995
- Lindorfer Named Director of NPOESS November 3, 1995
- AGENCIES ESTABLISH NEW CIVIL-MILITARY SATELLITE PROGRAM - NOAA 95-36 6/1/95
- Convergence of U.S. Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Systems and
Landsat Remote Sensing Strategy [Statement by the Press Secretary, May 10, 1994]
- Convergence of U.S. Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite
Systems[Fact Sheet, May 10, 1994]
- National Performance Review
DOC12 Establish a Single Civilian Operational Environmental Polar Satellite
Program September 1993
- Air Force turns over weather satellite control to NOAA : Jun 2, 1998 (AFNS) -- Air Force Space Command and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration combined operations of their separate weather satellite systems into a single system May 29.
Implemented by Charles P. Vick, Sara D. Berman, and
Christina Lindborg, 1997 Scoville Fellow
Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Friday, July 24, 1998 8:52:50 PM