The US Space Force’s (USSF) Space Systems Command (SSC) has announced the successful launch of its first electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) weather systems (EWS) CubeSat technical demonstration.
The launch was carried out aboard the SpaceX Transporter-6 mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US, on 4 January.
The newly launched one-year CubeSat technical demonstration aims to validate new space-based EO/IR radiometric imaging technology by utilising a smaller sensor for timely delivering weather imagery data, operating from low-Earth orbit (LEO).
The first set of data under this EWS programme is expected to be transmitted to SSC by early next year.
According to the US SSC, the latest launch is in alignment with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Congressional mandate from fiscal year (FY) 2020 to complete the launch of a weather EO/IR pathfinder prototype by FY23.
EWS materiel leader and programme manager lieutenant colonel Joe Maguadog said: “The EWS CubeSat technical demonstration effort represents SSC’s continued commitment to working with non-traditional partners to broaden the competitive industrial base.
“If successful, this will provide an innovative option to deliver space-based environmental monitoring data to warfighters at an operationally relevant speed.
“This demonstration will inform our transition toward a more affordable, scalable and resilient EO/IR weather constellation.”
The CubeSat launched for this demonstration was provided by Orion Space Solutions, one of the two vendors that were shortlisted by the SSC through a competition to support the EWS programme.
The second company is General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS).
Selected in February 2022, the two companies were responsible for the development and launch of two separate sensor prototypes.
The second prototype, which is being developed by GA-EMS, is expected to be delivered by 2025.