GeoMetWatch plans to use hyperspectral weather technology developed with $400 million in U.S. government funding at the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan. The Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer (Gifts) was tested and calibrated on the ground as an engineering unit for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the GOES constellation, but it never flew.
Now doing business as the Advanced Weather Systems, the same engineering team is building the first Storm payload for GeoMetWatch, which has a U.S. Commerce Department license to deploy at least six of the payloads to provide global, overlapping coverage.
Although there will soon be a need for new weather sensors in the U.S., Readdy says the company has concentrated initially on the Asia-Pacific region, where a number of factors have created a strong market for communications satellites like AsiaSat-5 (see photo) that could carry the Storm payload.
“We think the need is probably more acute over in Asia,” Readdy says. “The vulnerability [to dangerous weather] certainly is, with those island nations and all that highly populated coastline.”
Also driving the company's push in Asia is the expected U.S. strategic “pivot” to the area, with its increased requirement for precision weather data, Readdy notes. And “there is an awful lot more capital available in Asia right now,” he says.
In contrast to the U.S. government, which doesn't have a clear idea just how much money it will have to spend after the March 1 sequestration deadline, “in Asia, there's an awful lot more willingness to deploy capital, and certainly the governments in Asia seem very willing to participate,” he says.
GeoMetWatch anticipates its first payload will cost about $150 million to develop, integrate fly, Readdy says, with the price tag dropping as more payloads are built. “We're planning to get the first one up in 2016,” he said Feb. 13. “We're marching through some key milestones right now, and we expect to be able to announce an agreement with a major fleet operator in the next two weeks.”