WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force has selected Raytheon Intelligence & Space to build an advanced weather satellite prototype that can provide the military with theater weather imaging and cloud characterization, the company announced July 22.

The Next Generation Electro-Optical Infrared Weather Satellite is intended to replace the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, or DMSP, a series of satellites that have provided weather data for military operations since the 1960s.

In 2015, Congress directed the Air Force to replace DMSP with a new weather system. As of last year, the satellites in the DMSP constellation were reaching the end of their service life, and the Pentagon expressed concerns that they may not last until a new satellite is launched in 2024.

ORS-8, a planned replacement slated to launch in 2020 in partnership with NASA, was canceled by the space agency following protests. A free-flying spacecraft that could help provide weather data in the interim was scrapped by the Pentagon last year in favor of a distributed low-Earth orbit architecture.

Raytheon says it can design the new satellite in eight months by leveraging weather system technology used on the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. Raytheon did not disclose the prototype contract value.

“Our system will gather all the info needed to not only build an accurate weather forecast, but to really understand what’s going on in the atmosphere — both of which are essential to planning and executing a mission,” said Wallis Laughrey, vice president of space and command-and-control systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “Understanding clouds and cloud movement could be used for things as simple as route planning for air-to-air refueling or to know where clouds might be covering an area of interest.”

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

More In Space