A new satellite that will provide weather data for US military operations has passed its critical design review, Ball Aerospace announced April 20, and the company is now moving into full production.
The weather system tracking satellite is intended to fill three vital gaps in environmental monitoring from space identified by the Department of Defense: ocean surface vector winds, cyclone intensity tropical and energetically charged particles in low Earth orbit.
The satellite will include a passive microwave imaging radiometer for the first two missions, which will provide timely weather collection in support of maneuver forces. A government-provided charged particle sensor will be used for the third mission, which will provide important space weather capabilities such as the ability to characterize operational orbits, space situational awareness and information about the ionosphere. .
“Measuring and understanding the physical environment is critical to military operations, from determining tropical cyclone intensity for asset protection and maneuvering operations to how wind and sea state play a assured access and aircraft carrier operations,” Mark Healy, Ball Aerospace vice president and general manager of national defense, said in a statement.
In addition, the WSF satellite will collect information on sea ice characterization, soil moisture and snow depth.
Ball Aerospace is the prime contractor for the entire WSF system, which means it will supply the spacecraft with instruments, spacecraft and system software and algorithms for data products. The company initially received $93,713,423 in November 2017 to design the system, and a year later another $255,418,494 to develop and manufacture the satellite.
According to the Space Force, the WSF satellite is expected to launch in fiscal year 2024.
Nathan Strout is the editor of C4ISRNET, where he covers the intelligence community.