NOAA Continues Push Toward Innovative Partnerships with Second Round of Commercial Weather Data Pilot

Radio occultation helps to increase the accuracy of weather prediction models by measuring the refraction of radio signals beamed through Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit; NOAA)

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.

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Senate Appropriations Approves Budget Boost for NASA, Cut for NOAA


WASHINGTON, DC – June 14, 2018 (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) — The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act with funding for programs that support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities….

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $21.3 billion for NASA, $587 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $1.43 billion above the budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, to fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and to support fundamental aeronautics research.

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NASA Dives Deep into the Search for Life

Artist rendering showing an interior cross-section of the crust of Enceladus, which shows how hydrothermal activity may be causing the plumes of water at the moon’s surface. (Credits: NASA-GSFC/SVS, NASA/JPL-Caltech/Southwest Research Institute)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (NASA PR) — Off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island and more than 3,000 feet beneath the ocean surface lie the warm, bubbling springs of a volcano — a deep-sea location that may hold lessons for the search for extraterrestrial life.

Here, NASA and its partners are blending ocean and space exploration, with a project called SUBSEA, short for Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog. Lessons learned in both fields will be mutually beneficial and could help design future science-focused missions across the solar system.

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NASA Canceled Radiation Budget Instrument Due to Budget, Technical Issues

Radiation Budget Instrument (Credit: Harris Corporation)

Excessive cost growth, technical issues and poor contractor performance were the key factors that caused NASA to cancel a scientific instrument that had been set to fly aboard NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System 2 (JPSS-2), according to an assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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NOAA Issues RFP for Commercial Weather Data Pilot Program

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 News reports 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.

Proposals for phase two are due on May 25.

Coast Guard Preparing To Launch Its First Satellites

Polar Scout CubeSat (Credit: Coast Guard)

WASHINGTON (U.S. Coast Guard PR) — Two small satellites, scheduled for launch in 2018, will provide the Coast Guard with the opportunity to test the effectiveness of satellite communications in supporting Arctic search and rescue missions.

These satellites, or “cubesats,” are capable of detecting transmissions from emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), which are carried on board vessels to broadcast their position if in distress. The Coast Guard will deploy the cubesats in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s Polar Scout program, the Air Force Operationally Responsive Space Office, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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SpaceX Launches 10 Iridium Next Satellites

Falcon 9 lifts off with Iridium Next 41-50 satellites. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX successfully launched 10 Iridium Next satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday morning.

Iridium-NEXT satellites 41-50 were successfully deployed from the booster’s second stage about an hour after the launch at 7:13 a.m. PDT. It was the fifth batch of 10 Iridium-NEXT satellites that SpaceX has orbited using three different first stage boosters.

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Scheduled Launches for March

Atlas V booster launches the GOES-S weather satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Below is the current launch schedule for March. In total, there are 8 launches planned for the month with 16 communications satellites, one meteorological satellite, and one crew mission to the International Space Station. The launches include:

  • United States: 3 (2 Falcon 9, 1 Atlas V)
  • Russia: 2 (Soyuz from Baikonur & French Guiana)
  • Europe: 1 (Ariane 5)
  • China: 1 (Long March 3B)
  • India: 1 (GSLV Mk. 2)

This schedule is subject to change. Please visit https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/ for updates.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: GOES-S meteorological satellite
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Outcome: Successful

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6 communications satellite
Launch Window: 12:33-2:33 a.m. EST (0533-0733 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4 communications satellite
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 15

Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Payload: Apstar 6C communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Xichang, China

March 21

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Soyuz MS-08
Launch Time: 1:44 p.m. EDT (1744 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

NASA astronauts A.J. (Drew) Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev will travel to the International Space Station.

Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5
Payload: Superbird 8/DSN 1 & Hylas 4 communications satellites
Launch Time: 5:42 p.m. EDT (2142 GMT)
Launch Site: Kourou, French Guiana

March 24

Launch Vehicles: GSLV Mk.2
Payl0ad: GSAT 6A communications satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, India

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Iridium Next 41-50 communications satellites
Launch Time: 10:19:49 a.m. EDT; 7:19:49 a.m. PDT (1419:49 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

ULA Atlas V Launches GOES-S Weather Satellite

Atlas V booster launches the GOES-S weather satellite. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., March 1, 2018 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the GOES-S mission for NASA and NOAA lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on March 1 at 5:02 p.m. EST. GOES-S is the second satellite in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-R series of satellites, which have played a vital role in weather forecasting, storm tracking and meteorological research. ULA’s current and heritage Atlas and Delta rockets have launched every GOES satellite, first launching in 1975.

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NOAA’s GOES-S to Boost Weather Forecast Accuracy for Western U.S., Alaska, Hawaii

The GOES-S satellite being lowered into a thermal vacuum chamber. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

More detailed observations will improve marine, aviation forecasts and wildfire detection

WASHINGTON, DC. (NOAA PR) — NOAA is three days away from launching GOES-S, its newest geostationary weather satellite that will begin providing faster, more accurate data to track storm systems, lightning, wildfires, dense fog, and other hazards that threaten the western U.S., Hawaii, and Alaska.

“The GOES-S satellite will join GOES-16 and NOAA-20 as NOAA continues to upgrade its satellite fleet,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The latest GOES addition will provide further insight and unrivaled accuracy into severe weather systems and wildfires in the western United States.”

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Atlas V Set to Launch New Weather Satellite on Thursday

Atlas V booster (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V GOES-S mission for NASA and NOAA. The mission is set to lift off on an Atlas V rocket on Thursday, March 1 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Today’s forecast shows an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The launch time is 5:02 p.m. ET.

Launch Forecast Summary

Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 20%
Primary concerns: Cumulus Clouds, Ground Winds
Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 20%
Primary concern: Cumulus Clouds

Launch Broadcast

Live launch coverage will begin at 4:30 p.m. ET on March 1. Web cast available at: www.ulalaunch.com

Editor’s Note: The launch will also be shown on NASA TV.

Falcon 9 Launch Delayed Until Wednesday

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen as it launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 East with the Jason-3 spacecraft onboard, , Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been delayed until Wednesday, Feb. 21. The launch had been previously scheduled for Feb. 16 and Feb. 18.

The primary payload is the Paz satellite for Hisdesat of Spain. The spacecraft will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Elon Musk’s company will also launch two of its own satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, that will demonstration technologies needed to provide global broadband services. The company plans to orbit 12,000 in two separate constellations for its Starlink broadband service.

Here is the launch schedule for the next two weeks. Check for updates here.

Feb. 21

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:17 a.m. EST; 6:17 a.m. PST (1417 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 24/25

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Optical 6
Launch Window: 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST on Feb. 24 (0400-0600 GMT on Feb. 25)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

The Japanese government’s Information Gathering Satellite carries an optical reconnaissance payload.

Feb. 25

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: 12:35 a.m. EST (0535 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas 5
Payload: GOES-S
Launch Time: 5:02-7:02 p.m. EST (2202-0002 GMT)
Launch Site: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The United Launch Alliance rocket will launch the second next-generation geostationary weather satellite for NASA and NOAA.

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: French Guiana

The four O3b Networks will provide broadband services to developing countries.

China Launches Beidou Satellites, SpaceX Preps for Busy Launch Week

Atlas V booster (Credit: ULA)

A Chinese Long March 3B booster successfully orbited two Beidou navigational satellites on Monday. The flight, which took off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, was the seventh orbital launch by China in 2018, leading all nations thus far.

SpaceX also conducted a static fire of a Falcon 9 booster on Monday at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket is set to launch Hisdesat’s Paz satellite on Saturday using a previously-flown first stage. The launch will be followed by another flight five days later from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Here is the launch schedule for the weeks ahead. Check for updates here.

Feb. 17

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:22 a.m. EST; 6:22 a.m. PST (1422 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well as ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 22

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: 12:30 a.m. EST (0530 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

Feb. 24/25

Launch Vehicle: H-2A
Payload: IGS Optical 6
Launch Window: 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST on Feb. 24 (0400-0600 GMT on Feb. 25)
Launch site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

The Japanese government’s Information Gathering Satellite carries an optical reconnaissance payload.

March 1

Launch Vehicle: Atlas 5
Payload: GOES-S
Launch Time: 5:02-7:02 p.m. EST (2202-0002 GMT)
Launch Site: SLC-41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The United Launch Alliance rocket will launch the second next-generation geostationary weather satellite for NASA and NOAA.

March 6

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: O3b F4
Launch Time: 11:38:36 a.m. EST (1638:36 GMT)
Launch Site: French Guiana

The four O3b Networks will provide broadband services to developing countries.

Bridenstine Attempts to Soften Anti-Science Image with The Science Guy

Bill Nye in Washington. (Credit: Planetary Society)

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is defending his controversial decision to attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address this evening as a guest of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), whose nomination to serve as NASA administrator is facing a tough fight in the Senate.

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Secondary Payloads Increasingly Take Center Stage

CubeSats (Credit: ESA/Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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