Raytheon designs prototype for Space Force weather satellite

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SAN FRANCISCO – Raytheon Intelligence & Space is designing a prototype weather satellite for the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center that relies heavily on technology from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and Spectroradiometer company’s medium-resolution imagery.

“We’ve leveraged all of our capabilities that we’ve matured over the years and our spaceflight heritage to give Space Force about 70% of what VIIRS does for about 25% of the cost,” Shawn Cochran, Senior Director commercial development of Raytheon Intelligence & Space for Space & C2 Systems, says SpaceNews. “It’s not exactly VIIRS, but it contains many key components.”

Under the Electro-Optical/Infrared Weather System program, the Space Force is seeking to deploy a constellation of satellites to provide weather data before its current constellation of defense weather satellites cease operations. Prior to the creation of the Space Force, the United States Department of Defense determined that its top priorities were detailed and frequently updated observations of clouds around the world and weather in military theaters.

The Space and Missile Systems Center announced the June 3 award of three additional transaction authorization agreements, worth a total of $309 million, to Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group and Raytheon Technologies to develop prototypes for the Electro Optical/Infrared Meteorological Satellite System.

“The government will select designs from viable vendors to build and launch a prototype system for in-orbit demonstration by 2023,” according to a June 3 SMC press release. SMC’s goal for the program is to field operational weather satellites by 2025, the statement added.

Like VIIRS, Raytheon’s proposed weather imaging and cloud characterization satellite will include a day-night band to allow observations at night with moon illumination.

“It allows the fighter to do cloud characterization at a time when they normally can’t make observations,” Cochran said.

SMC provided funding for the electro-optical/infrared weather satellite system through the Space Enterprise Consortium. Under the Space Enterprise Consortium’s other transaction authority agreements, competitors must rely heavily on the work of non-traditional defense contractors.

Raytheon has not yet shared the names of its non-traditional partners. However, the partners are helping the company create “a flight prototype and in-orbit demonstration that can be scaled to achieve constellation goals,” Cochran said.

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