A weather satellite the Air Force spent some $500 million to build, then Congress ordered shuttered, is now on display at the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on Dec. 14 helped unveil the final Defense Meteorological Satellite Program spacecraft, DMSP-20, for display at the Schriever Space Complex. The weather satellite goes on display after years of back-and-forth between Congress and Department of Defense leadership over whether the satellite system was needed, should launch or would be dismantled.
Congress defunded DMSP-20 for fiscal 2016, including denying a request for $120 million to launch the system in 2018. Citing concerns about the costs of storing and launching the spacecraft, lawmakers ordered the cancellation and government officials shifted focus to outsourcing some of DMSP-20’s key duties — like monitoring climate change and providing mission-critical weather-monitoring over military areas of operation — to foreign allies and organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
However, the Air Force in 2016 once again raised the specter of launching the satellite after setbacks in communications and function with the in-orbit DMSP-19. That satellite unexpectedly ceased communications and the Air Force halted recovery efforts in March 2016; the system failed two years into a five-year mission. Another satellite, DMSP-17, was reassigned to the failed system’s position, according to published reports.
DMSP dates back to 1961 and currently includes five satellites, which “as a whole will continue to provide data used to create weather forecast models and provide crucial weather information for the foreseeable future,” according to an Air Force release.
The final DMSP satellite launched in 2014.
“This display represents a nearly 60-year history of environmental monitoring success by a satellite constellation that continues to provide crucial weather information to our nation’s leaders, civil users and war fighters,” Wilson said at the DMSP-20 unveiling.