A new satellite that will provide weather data for U.S. military operations has passed its critical design review, Ball Aerospace announced April 20, and the company is now moving forward into full production.
The Weather System Follow-on satellite is meant to fill three vital space-based environmental monitoring gaps identified by the Defense Department: ocean surface vector winds, tropical cyclone intensity and low-Earth orbit energetic-charged particles.
The satellite will include a passive microwave-imaging radiometer instrument for the first two missions, which will provide timely weather collection in support of maneuvering forces. A government-furnished energetic-charged particles sensor will be used for the third mission, which will provide important space weather capabilities such as the ability to characterize operational orbits, space situational awareness and information on the ionosphere.
“Measuring and understanding the physical environment is critical to military operations, from determining tropical cyclone intensity for asset protection and maneuver operations to how wind and sea state play into assured access and aircraft carrier operations,” Mark Healy, Ball Aerospace’s vice president and general manager of national defense, said in a statement.
In addition, the WSF satellite will collect information on sea ice characterization, soil moisture and snow depth.
Ball Aerospace is the prime contractor for the entire WSF system, meaning it will deliver the space vehicle along with instrument, spacecraft and system software and algorithms for data products. The company was initially awarded $93,713,423 in November 2017 to design the system, and a year later was awarded an additional $255,418,494 to develop and fabricate the satellite.
According to the Space Force, the WSF satellite is projected for a launch in fiscal 2024.
Nathan Strout was the staff editor at C4ISRNET, where he covered the intelligence community.