Weather instrument study deals go to Ball and Raytheon

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have awarded contracts to Raytheon Intelligence & Space and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. to develop technologies for the next generation of the geostationary weather satellites.

Each business will receive approximately $5 million to execute a definition-phase investigation of the Atmospheric Composition device for the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) program, under the firm-fixed-price contracts issued by NASA, NOAA’s acquisition partner.

NOAA’s GeoXO constellation will contain instruments to examine lightning, coastal water conditions, and air quality in addition to tracking terrestrial weather. It is expected to launch in the early 2030s. NOAA intends to launch GeoXO satellites over the western and eastern United States, as well as a satellite over the middle of the country, similar to the present GOES-R series.

The Atmospheric Composition instrument, often known as ACX, will collect data from ultraviolet to visible spectral regions. Raytheon and Ball will have 20 months to determine the instrument’s potential performance, hazards, cost, and timeline. The ACX device implementation deal, which NOAA hopes to award in 2024, will be based on the findings of the industry studies.

ACX will acquire significant data on atmospheric aerosols and chemicals from its perch above the central United States. “Air quality will be one of those essential criteria,” Matt Magaa, deputy vice president of Raytheon Space Systems, told SpaceNews. “It’s certainly crucial to how we spend our lives as well as the pollutants we’ve now generated, as well as how we’ll monitor those in the future.”

A design study for an imager with high-resolution for the GeoXO constellation was conducted by Raytheon last year. Following that, the company developed a team “to discover and define new pollution hazards, how we’ll monitor them, and how we’ll advance those observations to provide a long tail of the next generation Earth-observation sensors,” according to Magaa.

Ball is also working on a Phase A definition study for a GeoXO geostationary sounder. In October, NASA awarded Ball and L3Harris contracts for an estimated $8 million each. Ball designed and manufactured the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, which was deployed in 2011, and the first Joint Polar Satellite System spacecraft, which was launched in 2017. Meanwhile, Ball is building the Weather System Follow-On satellite for the US Space Force, and the business was awarded a contract in 2020 to build, integrate, and operate NOAA’s Space Weather Follow On satellite, which will be launched into Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 1.

In December, the Space Force awarded Raytheon a $67 million contract to develop a weather satellite that will offer imagery of cloud cover as well as other data for military operations. Raytheon also makes the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, which is used by Suomi NPP and the very first Joint Polar Satellite System, and also the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, which is used by NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites.

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