US: PlanetiQ LLC has received a contract from US Air Force for the provision of an adaptable on-orbit platform for hosting US government payloads as a subcontractor to Millennium Engineering and Integration Company. PlanetiQ, which plans to launch the first commercial constellation of weather and climate satellites, and Millennium are partnering under a contract awarded by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) through its Hosted Payload Solutions programme. The multi-award contract is worth up to USD 495 million.
PlanetiQ's initial constellation of 12 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites is expected to be fully deployed by 2017, with six more satellites planned for launch by 2019, providing the US government with flexible payload and launch opportunities at a much lower cost than traditional LEO missions. The PlanetiQ constellation will collect over 8 million observations per day for greatly enhanced weather forecasting, climate monitoring and space weather prediction. The primary technology onboard will be the fourth-generation radio occultation sensor, licensed exclusively by PlanetiQ and based on the gold standard for radio occultation sensors currently on orbit. The fourth-generation sensor is smaller, lighter, and requires less power than previous versions, leaving plenty of capacity to host additional payloads.
Radio occultation is a proven technique to derive high-precision vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature, pressure and water vapor used in numerical weather prediction, as well as measurements of the ionosphere to support space weather alerting, by observing the bending of GPS signals as they travel through Earth's atmosphere. The PlanetiQ radio occultation sensor will receive signals from all four major Global Navigation Satellite Systems—GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou–allowing the constellation to collect over 30,000 occultations per day. Data will be delivered to customers in less than three minutes from being collected via the Inmarsat communications satellite network. This near real-time delivery is critical to the weather and space weather forecasting requirements of meteorological agencies, militaries and numerous industries worldwide.
Source: PR newswire