Weather prediction for any condition

New small satellites to improve weather imaging day or night

Today’s weather forecasts can help people decide whether to grab an umbrella on the way out or get ready for a big storm. A new class of small satellites in development at Raytheon Intelligence & Space could provide even better data to inform those decisions.

The new Earth-observing small satellites have enhanced capabilities including higher fidelity weather imaging, cloud characterization, ocean surface winds, soil moisture content, tropical cyclone intensity and other key data sets needed to improve weather observations and forecasting.

“If a tropical cyclone started to develop at night, we would still be able to see it with these enhanced capabilities,” said Shawn Cochran, senior manager for Space & C2 Systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “That improves forecast track error, allowing us to better understand of the lifecycle of hurricanes and tropical storms. This adds days of early warning instead of hours that could save lives and property.”

The new program draws from the success of the Joint Polar Satellite System Common Ground System, which uses cloud-enabled resources for mission management, command and control, data processing and data delivery of the satellites.

“Cloud-enabled resources dramatically improve access to the data and lowers the time it takes to get the data,” said Cochran. “The faster we receive data, the better equipped we are to make decisions.”

The new small-satellite class could potentially replace the existing weather satellites that provide data to countries across the globe. According to Resolution 40 under the World Meteorological Organization, weather data is freely shared under treaty without any restriction. The observations that U.S. satellites make are shared around the world and vice versa. What would be far too expensive for any one country to do on their own is now affordable through data sharing.

The team is leveraging their space production line capabilities to achieve dramatically reduced manufacturing times while vastly improving the satellites capabilities. These improvements include things like higher resolution imaging and greater durability, all while achieving lower size, weight and power requirements. These improvement could benefit both civil and military customers.

“We are operating in a go-fast environment,” said Matt Magaña, vice president of Space Systems for Space & C2 Systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “We must be agile and maintain superior production quality. With manufacturing lines in full production mode, we can meet new challenges with increasingly tight schedules and budgets.”

The new class of satellites is expected to be fully operational by 2023.