U.S. Air Force has bad luck and increasing number of problems with their weather satellites. It seems that situation will not change as soon as military would like to see.
After loss of DMSP-13 satellite which exploded on January 2015 and recent communication problems with DMSP-19, USAF have serious problem. Since 11th February 2016 when DMSP-19 stopped communicating with ground control center, operators performed many attempts to bring satellite again under control. Unfortunately without positive results; on 15 March 2016 gen. John Hyten, chief of the Air Force Space Command, officially confirmed that satellite is still not operational and probably it will need to be decommissioned. After two years of service, DMSP-19 built by Lockheed Martin, is out of service without reaching even half of operational life (which was assumed by Lockheed for 5 years). Gen. John Hyten also stated that in his opinion best solution for improving state of military weather forecasting system is launching DMSP-19 backup satellite – DMSP-20. He did not specify if satellite would be launched “as is” or with implemented modifications to be launched by SpaceX instead ULA, as gen. Hyten stated on April 2015. Whole DMSP program was cancelled in the end of 2015 by the decision of Senate. Belonging to fifth generation of Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites, DMSP-19 was penultimate satellite from whole program. Last spacecraft, DMSP-20 was also covered with Senate bill and Air Force could not perform launch. Satellite is stored by Air Force since early nineties when was manufactured and delivered by Lockheed Martin. Decision of Senate could be reasonable – investing money in launch of over 20 years old satellite is not good idea, when data necessary for weather forecasting could be provide by civilian weather satellites with much lower cost. Senate members remember for sure that new Joint Polar Satellite System (cooperation between NASA and NOAA) is going to start operating with launch of first satellite (JPSS-1) in 2017 and it could provide weather forecasting data also for military. It seems that DMSP time is counted.
On picture above: General John E. Hyten, Commander of the Air Force Space Command.