The nearest term opportunities for the Air Force to buy into such a smaller satellite option are likely in a few years when the service must decide on whether to buy a seventh Sbirs and AEHF satellite. In the meantime, however, Shelton tells Aviation Week that he will be a “very demanding taskmaster on the weather satellite” being developed in the wake of the National Polar Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System’s termination in 2010. “It has got to stay very small,” he says, adding that hosting weather sensors on other satellites is also an option in the trade space as the Air Force looks for new environmental monitoring concepts.
Boeing officials say Phoenix customers can tailor the avionics and designed-in redundancy based on unique needs.
The concept grew out of two influences at Boeing. The company delivered two Space Environmental NanoSat Experiment satellites to the Air Force last year, and this was a jumping off point for the Phantom Phoenix concept. Additionally, the rapid prototyping and production team behind the 702 SP all-electric satellite was shifted to work on the Phantom Phoenix in order to repeat the process.
Though Boeing has sold small satellites before, it is best known for its larger, more expensive bus offerings. Branching into smaller satellites is a move to cut into business traditionally held by such companies as Orbital Sciences or Ball. Lopez says he expects no problems competing in this market. “If the price is the wrong price, then they won’t sell,” he says.
Initial development work is being handled at the company’s Huntington Beach, Calif., facility.