WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force selected General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems and Orion Space Solutions to each develop and launch demonstration satellites for weather imaging and cloud characterization.
The Space Systems Command announced the selection in a news release Feb. 28 but did not disclose the value of the contracts. The two companies were chosen following a three-way competition with Raytheon Technologies for the Electro-Optical/Infrared Weather System (EWS) program.
Orion Space (previously known as Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates), based in Louisville, Colorado, will launch a cubesat in late 2022 for a one-year demonstration.
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The company did not provide details of its cubesat design or industry partners in the program.
General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS), based in San Diego, California, will develop a 400-kilogram satellite projected to launch in 2024 0r 2025 for a three-year demonstration.
General Atomics’ satellite is intended to fill a gap in weather coverage as the military’s decades-old Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites are running out of fuel and projected to be out of service between 2023 and 2026.
Both demonstration satellites will be launched into a low polar orbit to collect weather imaging and cloud characterization data.
“This is a major step forward for the EWS Program,” said Lt. Col. Joseph L. Maguadog, EWS materiel leader and program manager. “This EO/IR imaging capability will succeed the aging DMSP at a lower cost to the government,” he said.
The EWS satellites will be used by the U.S. and NATO allies to provide weather data that is critical to military operators such as flight routes, combat search and rescue, maritime surface tracking efforts, enemy missile observation and intelligence collection.