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Ball Aerospace was selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for four, six-month study contracts that will inform mission, spacecraft and instrument concepts for future operational weather architectures and Earth observation capabilities. Ball Aerospace is also collaborating on a fifth study contract awarded to L3Harris Technologies.
"Operational weather satellites are a critical part of the nation's infrastructure, playing a key role in keeping the public safe and the economy strong by enabling forecasters to predict and reduce the impacts of extreme weather events," said Dr. Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace. "Through close coordination with the broader weather community, Ball developed a series of innovative technology and mission solutions to meet NOAA's most critical space-based observational needs in an affordable and sustainable way, and these studies are a continuation of this effort."
The five study contracts include:
- Auroral Imager in Tundra – Ball is working with Computational Physics, Inc. to perform a trade study of cost and performance between two promising technology strategies for a dedicated auroral imager in a highly elliptical Tundra orbit, long recognized as a useful vantage point for global auroral imaging. Auroral imagery provides important space weather situational awareness for users of technologies affected by auroral phenomena, such as power grids and aviation services.
- Ball Operational Weather Instrument Evolution (BOWIE) Microwave – This concept study will evaluate the baseline design of Ball's BOWIE-M instrument and explore optimization of performance and cost. BOWIE-M leverages recent advances in microwave component miniaturization and advances in antenna technology to enable a future disaggregated constellation of low-cost, high-performance atmospheric sounding instruments. Approximately half the size of current instruments flying on operational polar-orbiting weather satellites, BOWIE-M is designed to deliver similar capability at reduced cost. Ball is collaborating with Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER), a Verisk business, that will lead a trade analysis of the instrument design and performance.
- BOWIE Compact Hyperspectral Infrared Observations (CHIRO) – This instrument concept study will focus on technology and performance trades for a cost-effective, high-performance smallsat solution for hyperspectral infrared sounding from geostationary orbit.
- BOWIE Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) IR Sounder – Through this study, Ball will explore compact instrument designs to meet NOAA's atmospheric vertical temperature and moisture profiling requirements, identifying technology roadmap options to address cost versus performance for infrared sounder instrument(s) for rapid insertion into Low-Earth Orbit.
- Joint LEO Sounding Mission Study – Ball is working with L3Harris and PlanetiQ for this mission concept study, which will evaluate an all-industry smallsat mission, hosting both microwave and infrared sounding instruments (provided by Ball and L3Harris, respectively), and GNSS-RO sounding sensors (provided by PlanetiQ). The team will also explore how the mission can be optimized for cost and performance while meeting the LEO sounding requirements of NOAA's future operational weather architecture. Ball will also perform an accommodation assessment of the baseline instrument designs, from all study participants, using a Ball small satellite for insertion in various orbits. In addition to an instrument integration assessment, Ball will study commercial launch options to enable a delivery-on-orbit acquisition model for a complete sounding system that NOAA would own and operate.
Ball has played key roles on numerous operational weather satellite programs, including the Ball-built Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, which launched in 2011, and the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) satellite, now NOAA-20, which launched in 2017. In addition, Ball is also currently manufacturing the Weather System Follow-On satellite for the U.S. Space Force.