Contract heralds “new paradigm in weather forecasting”

The cost of deploying weather satellites could be cut by 95 per cent following the signing of a contract to put miniaturised weather observing and forecasting technology into space.

In Orbit Demonstrator Mission 1 (Clyde Space)

The Satellite Applications Catapult signed the contract to put Orbital Micro Systems’ In Orbit Demonstrator (IOD) technology into orbit at the STFC RAL Space Appleton Space Conference, which was held on December 7, 2017.

Consisting of a 10 x 10 x 15cm sized instrument in a 3U CubeSat satellite, the payload will be launched in autumn 2018 by Webster, Texas-based NanoRacks and put into low earth orbit via their CubeSat deployer (NRCSD) on the International Space Station. Innovate UK has invested £1.5m in the IOD programme, which offers a CubeSat platform from Clyde Space and associated launch for four missions.

Boulder, Colorado-based OMS develops advanced instrumentation for small satellites that are said to gather weather data more frequently and with better clarity than the large institutional satellites that are currently in use.

Its Global Environmental Monitoring Satellites (GEMS) will record temperature, humidity and precipitation at different levels throughout the atmosphere. When the full constellation of 35 satellites is in service by 2020, OMS will be able to provide global coverage at 16km2 resolution, with data refreshed every 15 minutes.

The company believes this will open up a wide variety of opportunities in various markets including aerospace, maritime transportation, agriculture, insurance and energy.

The IOD mission will serve as the first step of the GEMS roll-out and provide the ‘proof of concept’ for the first ever commercial space-based microwave radiometer sounding spectrometer, retrieving temperature data in eight vertical atmospheric layers.

“We believe we are creating a new paradigm in weather forecasting,” said William Hosack, CEO, OMS. “The In Orbit Demonstration Programme allows us to prove our technology in space and de-risk it for both investors and customers. An extraordinary ‘space ecosystem’ has been developed in the UK and OMS is excited to be investing in it.”

The company has established its UK headquarters at Harwell, Oxfordshire, and plans to invest ‘significantly’ in the UK over the next five years.