This year, the U.S. Space Force expects to choose which vendors will construct next-generation weather satellites for the Defense Department. However, the race is being put off until 2022. This is to give the teams additional time to fine-tune their designs, says a program official.
- It is a Space Force company that functions with startups and commercial space companies.
- In June 2020 an award of $309 million in contracts to three teams:
- Raytheon Technologies
- General Atomics
- Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates
- All three are planning concepts for a pattern of polar-orbiting weather imaging and cloud characterization satellites. This is known as EWS (Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System).
“The initial plan was to down-select in spring 2021. However, the EWS program office extended the contest to spring 2022. This is on the basis of positive vendor progress and accessible resources,” says Col. Brian Denaro. He is program executive administrator for space expansion at the Space Systems Command.
“This expansion allows the system office the flexibility. This is in order to make a certain down-select choice on the basis of a more mature design,” says Denaro.
The EWS satellites will gather cloud prediction and theatre climate imagery information. That information presently is given by an aging constellation of four Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) spacecraft. They are likely to run out of service life somewhere between late 2023 and 2026.
The Space Enterprise Consortium is operating with the three teams under so-called Other Transaction Authority agreements. These are so as to reduce red tape and permit suppliers to co-invest in projects. The Space Force says it intends to choose at least one for an on-orbit display in 2023.
- Raytheon is suggesting an EWS concept it calls TWICC (Theater Weather Imaging and Cloud Characterization). This is by means of a tinier version of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument. The construction was originally for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Joint Polar Satellite System.
- General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems is presenting a system of 15 small satellites armed with visible and infrared instruments from EOVista. Braxton, a firm now held by Parsons, is creating a ground system architecture for command and control of the EO/IR satellites.
- Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates is recommending a nearly 50-satellite constellation of 12U CubeSats. ASTRA’s team comprises Lockheed Martin, Science and Technology Corp., Pumpkin Inc., and Atmospheric & Environmental Research.