Companies are vying to design a new weather satellite
Illustration from iStock
Several defense contractors have been chosen to develop a prototype of the Space Force’s next-generation electro-optical infrared weather satellite.
The Space Enterprise Consortium has awarded $309 million in the form of three other transaction authorization agreements for the first phase of the program. Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group, and Raytheon received OTAs.
The spacecraft will help “inform operators and warfighters on decisions about how to execute missions,” said Shawn Cochran, senior business development manager for space systems and C2 at Raytheon Intelligence and Space. “It’s really designed from the ground up to help us better understand clouds, cloud movement, and characterize them to enable things like aerial refueling missions, or [operations] where clouds might cover an area of interest.
The companies will work on Phase 1 for eight months, Cochran said. Phase 2 is the final design review and Phase 3 is construction and launch.
Raytheon is working on the satellite dubbed Theater Weather Imaging and Cloud Characterization, or TWICC, Cochran said. The system will provide users with increased viewing capability at night.
“Our TWICC design allows the military to continue to see at night, see weather effects, and see the ground because we’ve leveraged something called day-night band, which gives nighttime weather images and weather phenomena, even without moonlight for mission planning and battlespace intelligence,” he explained.
The new system will also be designed to provide improved resolution and better daytime capabilities, he noted.
The new bands will give users “a richer perspective of what’s happening in the atmosphere from the surface to the troposphere,” he said.
At press time, ASTRA and General Atomics had not responded to requests for comment. In a press release, ASTRA said it was working with Lockheed Martin, Science and Technology Corp., Pumpkin Inc. and Atmospheric & Environmental Research on this effort. The company is working on an eight-channel Rapid Revisit Optical Cloud Imager.
“Our solution ensures easy implementation and rapid refresh of new technology in the architecture as needed, and will cater to both governments and enterprises. [space-based environmental monitoring] requirements,” Scott Jensen, the project’s principal investigator and ASTRA’s senior vice president for technology, said in the release.
Cochran said the Space Force hopes to have an initial prototype by January 2023 and wants the constellation to be ready for initial operational testing and evaluation by 2025.
Topics: Battlefield Communications, Space