DMSP--Block-5D2 satellite

ITT Exelis has received a study contract to design and develop the final concept for the US Air Force’s (USAF) weather satellite follow-on activities (WSFA) programme.

Awarded by the Space and Missile Systems Center, the $13m contract involves the company studying design modifications and also developing a final concept for an affordable and low-risk weather imaging sensor system.

ITT Exelis Weather Systems vice president Eric Webster said the company’s sensor design will deliver better weather information, particularly regarding clouds, which is critical to the air force for mission planning.

"Our goal is to do it at a much more affordable price and at a much lower risk than normal satellite procurements," Webster added.

"At the end of the study, we will have a definitive cost and schedule to build the flight hardware."

The study, to be pursued for one year, is expected to solidify the design for the imaging sensor and also ensure the system can be operated on multiple satellite platforms, eventually offering maximum flexibility to the air force during planning of its next-generation programme.

"The $13m contract involves the company studying design modifications and also developing a final concept."

Equipped with more channels and upgraded electronics, the company’s electro-optical / infrared (EO/IR) environmental sensor will be designed to provide enhanced capabilities, when compared to the current defence weather satellite sensors.

The company’s two options featuring its advanced very high resolution radar (AVHRR) were found to be less costly, when compared to a third option, which was similar to the satellite the Department of Defense (DoD) was planning, before the defense weather satellite system (DWSS) programme was terminated.

The three satellite design concepts were thoroughly evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the findings were published in Options for Modernizing Military Weather Satellites: Working Paper 2012-11, which was released in September 2012.

Image: Artist’s depiction of the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program-Block-5D2 satellite in orbit. Photo courtesy of GDK.

Defence Technology