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USGS Budget Plan to Advance Earth Observations, Hazards Measures

The request for across-the-board increases in fiscal year 2017 also seeks to improve water monitoring and terrain mapping, downsize infrastructure, and grow operations in support of scientific work.

In its latest budget proposal, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) aims for a significant boost to the nation’s satellite Earth-observing capabilities, better protections for communities against the risks of earthquakes and geomagnetic storms, and major improvements to monitoring water use during droughts. These represent a few highlights of a proposed fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget of $1.169 billion that would grow about 10% over the FY 2016 enacted level if Congress approves the agency’s request.

To enhance Earth observation from space, USGS would increase funding for the Landsat 9 Earth-observing satellite to $19.7 million, an increase of $15.4 million, which would help move up the spacecraft’s launch date to 2021 from 2023. A follow-on mission to Landsat 8, Landsat 9 will provide a direct but improved replacement for the still-orbiting Landsat 7 satellite, according to USGS.

“We are in lock step in planning with NASA and the Landsat science team to accelerate the launch date and design of the instruments and delivery of those for launch in 2021,” said Virginia Burkett, USGS associate director for climate and land use change, at an 11 February briefing about the agency’s FY 2017 funding proposal, which was released on 9 February.

Other budgeting related to Earth-viewing satellites includes $2.2 million in new funding to acquire data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellites and $2.99 million in new funds to develop computing and online storage resources to produce and disseminate Landsat-based information products.