Liftoff for Pioneering Nanosats

Pioneer Spire nanosatellite in RF test chamber. (Credit: Spire)

SRIHARIKOTA, India (ESA PR) — The first ‘Pioneer’ mission lifted off last week from Sriharikota, India, with the two inventive little nanosatellites now circling the Earth, ready for action.

The shoebox-sized satellites were launched at 04:27 GMT into low Earth orbit by the Indian Space Research Organisation’s PLSV launcher, and opened their first communication windows with their owner, Spire Global, less than an hour after they separated from the rocket.

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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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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.

UK Space Agency Backs Spire as ESA Space Mission Provider

Swindon, England (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency has awarded more than £4 million to Spire Global to demonstrate cutting-edge space technology including ‘parallel super-computing’.

Today’s announcement by UK Government ministers Lord Henley and Lord Duncan, gives the green light to missions designed to showcase the technology and put UK companies into orbit faster and at a lower cost. The UK is the largest funder of the European Space Agency’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Satellites (ARTES) programme, which transforms research into successful commercial projects.

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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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