Orbital Micro Systems Achieves Earth Observation Breakthroughs

Orbital Micro Systems Achieves Earth Observation Breakthroughs

First commercial weather imaging satellite—designed and deployed in record time—sets the stage for advances in weather forecasting and preparedness

Boulder, Colorado, August 19, 2019 – Orbital Micro Systems (OMS), a leader in advanced instrumentation for small satellite missions and analysis-ready earth data intelligence platforms, announced that data received from its payload on the IOD-1 GEMS satellite has proven the commercial viability of the company’s advanced earth observation platform. Deployed from the International Space Station on July 3, 2019, OMS’ MINIRAD™ miniaturized passive microwave radiometer outmatched the best available microwave and infrared views of weather structures on earth, showing excellent clarity and detail not previously possible.

Figure 1. Superior definition of weather structures revealed in comparison of GEMS data to coincident NOAA and FY-3C data.

Having proven the viability of our hardware and software, OMS is immediately ramping up production of our commercial platform which incorporates two MINIRAD instruments, providing additional data observation channels. With the success of IOD-1 GEMS, the company is already executing on our government and commercial contracts to deliver actionable weather information, while expanding our capacity to provide analysis ready data (ARD) to global markets within minutes of observation.

“This deployment marks a number of space industry ‘firsts’, including being the first commercially- funded passive microwave radiometer in space,” said Michael Hurowitz, chief technology officer of OMS. “We also employed the first 3D-printed feedhorn antenna for millimeter-wave radiometry in space – enabling significant reductions in cost and design-cycle time. In addition, MINIRAD has achieved the highest spatial resolution of any 118 GHz radiometer at a small fraction of the cost of government missions.”

OMS will provide frequent, reliable, and cost-efficient earth observation data to industries that are thirsting for accurate weather data, such as agriculture, energy, transportation, insurance, government, and other sectors. This weather data impacts society at all levels, helping to improve safety, security, and prosperity for businesses and consumers all around the world.

There are many regions around the world that are not well-served by the infrequent readings and inferior resolution associated with existing weather infrastructure.  Our short-term intention is to globally sample weather conditions every hour for any point on earth, and eventually build out to conduct observations every fifteen minutes.

Along with improving temporal resolution, OMS’ technology has made a profound improvement in data clarity. Its spatial resolution of 15 km—compared to the 25 km spot provided by the FY-3C satellite – results in greater detail about the atmosphere from the surface up to about 20 km altitude, giving forecasters critical data to improve the accuracy of their models, and nowcasters the ability to provide time sensitive, critical updates on changing weather. The MINIRAD retrieves the 3D structure of weather systems, enables the location of precipitation within hurricanes and other storms, and improves planning activities for critical weather events.

“OMS’ approach to gathering Earth observation data, combined with the company’s business model to collect and deliver expanded data to commercial market customers, should be very impactful to the multiple sectors operationally and financially affected by weather,” said John Hernandez, senior aerospace and defense industry analyst for Frost and Sullivan. “The early data results are certainly impressive, and we look forward to seeing OMS move the needle on how the commercial space industry gathers, processes, and delivers actionable intelligence following their lead.”

Organizations contributing scientific support, advice, and collaboration to OMS include the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Edinburgh, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the Center for Environmental Technology, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. In addition, Innovate UK and Space Applications Catapult provided funding and support for the launch and ground support of the IOD-1 GEMS mission.