NOAA has awarded Spire Global and GeoOptics contracts worth a combined $23 million to provide radio occultation data from satellites the agency will use to improve its weather forecasting.
Under the two-year Commercial Weather Data Operational Buy contracts, the companies’ satellites will measure how Global Navigation Satellite System radio signals bend as they travel through the atmosphere.
NOAA will use data collected on temperatures, pressure and water vapor to better model and forecast the weather.
San Francisco-based Spire Global and GeoOptics of Pasadena, Calif., will share the $23 million award in accordance with the data the companies provide.
The contracts are a follow-on to the Commercial Weather Data Pilot program under which Spire Global and GeoOptics provided radio occultation data to NOAA for evaluation.
NOAA concluded earlier this year that the provided data were of sufficient quality to warrant purchasing.
NOAA will purchase radio occultation (RO) data from commercial companies after determining that the measurements are useful in improving weather forecasting.
In a report released last week, NOAA said measurements provided by Spire Global and GeoOptics satellites during the second round of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot (CWDP) program in 2018 and 2019 demonstrated the utility of commercial RO data.
PASADENA, Calif. (GeoOptics PR) — GeoOptics, Inc. (GeoOptics) announced today the launch of an original radio occultation data processing system called the GeoOptics Processor for Radio Occultation (GeoPRO) that provide even more accurate and timely weather data from its CICERO constellation of radio occultation (RO) satellites. CICERO nanosatellites are designed to create the most detailed picture ever assembled of the Earth’s ionosphere and atmosphere.
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NESDIS has awarded contracts to three satellite companies as part of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot (CWDP) Round Two.
Awardees Spire, GeoOptics, and PlanetIQ will each provide space-based radio occultation data to NOAA for the purpose of demonstrating data quality and potential value to NOAA’s weather forecasts and warnings.
At least 10 launches are planned worldwide this month. The launches include crew and cargo missions to the International Space Station and the first commercial flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron booster. Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL will launch NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) from the Marshall Islands on June 14.
China got June off to a successful start on Saturday with the launch of the Gaofen-6 remote sensing satellite aboard a Long March 2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
SpaceX is up next, with an early morning launch on Monday morning. A Falcon 9 is set to launch the SES 12 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The four-hour launch window opens at 12:29 a.m. EDT (0429 GMT). The company has no plans to recover the previously used first stage.
The current launch schedule is below. View updates here.
Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D Payload: Gaofen 6 remote sensing satellite Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China Outcome: Success
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 Payload: SES 12 communications satellite Launch Window: 12:29-1:27 a.m. EDT (0429-0527 GMT) Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida Webcast: www.spacex.com
Huntington Beach, Calif., Friday 25 May 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) — US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has today confirmed the new launch window for the upcoming ‘It’s Business Time’ mission. The 14-day launch window will open from 23 June to 6 July (NZST), with launch opportunities between 12:30 – 16:30 NZST daily (00:30 – 04:30 UTC).
NOAA has issued a request for proposals for the second phase of its commercial weather data pilot program.
The program’s goal is to determine whether GPS radio occultation data from commercial satellites can be used to improve weather forecasting. Radio occultation involves the change in a radio signal as it passes through Earth’s atmosphere, allowing for the measurement of physical properties there.
The firm-fixed price contracts for the second phase will run from Aug. 27, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019. The data collection and delivery period will run from Oct. 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.
Companies are required to provide at least two periods of at least three consecutive months of radio occultation data during the collection period. A minimum of 500 atmospheric soundings per day are required. Data must be delivered to NOAA at least once per week.
NASA issued contracts to GeoOptics and Spire for the first phase of the pilot program in September 2016. Space Newsreports the program did not go very smoothly, but that NOAA officials had learned a number of key lessons from it that are being included in the second phase.
GeoOptics’ contract was terminated when the company was unable to provide data because of delays in the launch of its first satellites.
While Spire did provide data, NOAA officials said later that the quality of the data fell short of expectations. “We have gone through one contract already with the radio occultation community, and we found that the data aren’t accurate enough or comprehensive enough yet to meet our observing requirements,” Stephen Volz, NOAA assistant administrator for satellite and information services, said in January. Spire said that the data from its constellation of cubesats has improved significantly since the end of that initial round of the pilot program in April 2017.
NOAA officials have said for several months that they are working on a report analyzing the results of that first round of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot. However, NOAA spokesman John Leslie said May 7 that the report is still “nearing competition” within the agency and will be released publicly once it is completed.
There are a dozen orbital launches planned around the world through the end of June.
China will lead off on Sunday as it launches its Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite from Xichang. A lunar lander and rover targeted for the far side of the moon is scheduled for launch at the end of the year.
Orbital ATK will follow with the launch of a Cygnus resupply ship bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday from Wallops Island. On Tuesday, SpaceX is scheduled to launch 5 Iridium Next satellites and a pair of scientific spacecraft for NASA.
Other notable missions scheduled through June include a Soyuz crew mission and a SpaceX Dragon resupply flight. Rocket Lab is probably going to launch the first commercial flight of its Electron booster from New Zealand. However, the company has not published a launch window for the flight.
The current global schedule is below. Be sure to check Space Flight Now’s launch schedule for updates.
Huntington Beach, Calif., 3 April 2018 (Rocket Lab PR) — US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab has today confirmed it will open a 14-day launch window this month to conduct the company’s first fully commercial launch. The mission, named ‘It’s Business Time’, includes manifested payloads for Spire Global and GeoOptics Inc., built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.
On most launches, the small secondary satellites that ride along with the primary payloads garner little attention.
That has begun to change in recent years as CubeSats have become increasingly capable. The importance of these small satellites could be seen in the recent launch of an Indian PSLV rocket, which carried a CartoSat Earth observation satellite and 30 secondary spacecraft from India, Canada, Finland, France, Republic of Korea, UK and the United States.
Today, astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly are visiting the White House to talk to the President about developing innovative new space technologies. One critical area for technology development is making satellites more affordable, adaptable, and adept at providing the sorts of real-time information that will help advance knowledge out in space and on Earth.
WASHINGTON (NOAA PR) — On September 15, 2016, NOAA awarded contracts to GeoOptics, Inc., and Spire Global, Inc., as part of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot.
GeoOptics and Spire Global will each provide space-based GNSS radio occultation data to NOAA for the purpose of demonstrating data quality and potential value to NOAA’s weather forecasts and warnings. This approach is a win-win solution. Both NOAA and the commercial firms will gain a trial run of the NOAA evaluation process, a necessary first step to considering sustained operational use of new commercial weather data.
If the current schedule holds, Virgin Galactic’s revamped LauncherOne program will enter commercial service sometime in 2018 after roughly a decade of development. During that period, the program has been redefined several times, lost two of the key people hired to lead it, and changed its launch platform from WhiteKnightTwo to a jumbo jet. The estimates for the initial flight tests also have slipped by about four years from 2013 to 2017.
Below is a timeline of the program’s major events, milestones, announcements, hires and departures, and other things. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anything significant.