The U.S. Space Force declared on May 25 that Northrop Grumman had won a $45.5 million contract to launch a small weather satellite in 2025.
The organization’s Minotaur 4 rocket will launch a payload called Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) Weather System (EWS) prototype that will demonstrate commercial weather imaging technologies for military use. The U.S. Space Force’s Orbital Services Program-4 awarded the task order for the launch contract.
At Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Small Launch and Targets Division of Space Systems Command is in charge of OSP-4. It is a contracting vehicle for indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) launch services for payloads greater than 400 pounds.
A General Atomics prototype, the EWS weather satellite will spend three years in low Earth orbit for testing. The mission was assigned USSF-261S-A.
“The EWS prototype will prove out new EO/IR sensor technology to provide operational quality data to the DoD weather community and inform development of a more cost-effective and proliferated operational architecture,” the Space Systems Command said.
The Space Systems Command in January launched one more EWS prototype, a cubesat made by Orion Space Solutions. That one traveled to orbit on the SpaceX Transporter-6 rideshare for a one-year demonstration.
Project tries to fill a demand for weather information.
Since the military’s decades-old Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites are running out of fuel and expected to be out of service by 2026, the EWS demonstrations are an effort to meet a need for weather data from the Defense Department.
Congress for years has pressed DoD to track down options in contrast to DMSP and consider commercial options.
The U.S. military and partners depend on weather data from satellites to plan military operators, for example, flight routes, combat search and rescue, maritime surface tracking efforts, enemy missile observation and intelligence collection.