WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force has selected Raytheon Intelligence & Space to build an advanced prototype weather satellite that can provide the military with theater weather imagery and cloud characterization, the company announced July 22.
The next-generation electro-optical infrared weather satellite is intended to replace the Defense Weather Satellite Program, or DMSP, a series of satellites that have provided weather data for military operations since the 1960s.
In 2015, Congress ordered the Air Force to replace the DMSP with a new weather system. As of last year, satellites in the DMSP constellation were reaching the end of their lifespan, and the Pentagon feared they would last until a new satellite was launched in 2024.
ORS-8, a planned replacement slated for launch in 2020 in partnership with NASA, was canceled by the space agency following protests. A free-flying spacecraft that could help provide weather data in the interim was abandoned by the Pentagon last year in favor of a distributed architecture in low Earth orbit.
Raytheon says it can design the new satellite in eight months by taking advantage of weather system technology used on the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite and the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. Raytheon did not disclose the value of the prototype contract.
“Our system will gather all the information necessary to not only make accurate weather forecasts, but to really understand what’s going on in the atmosphere – two critical components to planning and executing a mission,” said Wallis Laughrey, vice president of space. and command and control systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “Understanding clouds and cloud movement could be used for things as simple as route planning for aerial refueling or knowing where clouds might cover an area of interest.”
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.