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AFLCMC contract awarded for two satellites to build on existing weather data constellation

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Parks
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. - The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Weather Systems Branch at Hanscom Air Force Base recently awarded a contract to Tomorrow Companies Inc., to build on a weather data constellation in orbit.

Funded through the Accelerate the Procurement and Fielding of Innovative Technologies program, the contract supports the development and launch of two microwave sounder satellites. The final constellation will consist of 18 microwave sounders and 12 microwave radar satellites.

The Boston-based company, also known as, was awarded the $10.2 million contract to manufacture, build and deliver two additional microwave satellites to orbit, where they will provide a cumulative 10 months of data across all on-orbit microwave sounder satellites.

"The two additional microwave sounder satellites will increase revisit rates, or the time between observations of the same point on the Earth,” Lauren Craft Tarter, meteorology subject matter expert for the Commercial Weather Data Pilot, said. “’s future constellation of 30 low earth orbit small satellites will have hourly revisit rates.”

Weather influences many things involving outdoor activity. This includes convoys and missile launches.

“Weather plays a role in how traffic flows. It’s the same from the defense side,” Maj. Coy Fischer, CWDP program manager, said. “Our weather predictions inform and impact defense operations.”

Traditionally, the Department of Defense has collected its own weather data. However, this contract allows a commercial entity to collect the data, which the DOD can then purchase as a service. Fischer said this approach could be more efficient.

“We are now seeing commercial efforts in space that are as good as and, in some cases, better than the public sector,” Fischer said. “With this construct, we would just pay for the service and they (commercial entities) assume the risk of operating and maintaining the constellation.”

This CWDP initiative aims to compare commercial data with current DOD capabilities, validating the theoretical baseline for revisit rates and overall data accuracy and quality.

The cost benefits of utilizing commercial companies for space domain access were quickly recognized, leading to a significant increase in such activities over recent years.

“Congress tasked the government to look at commercial sources of weather data,” Fischer said. “Along that vein, we sought out small businesses such as, who are employing innovative techniques and technologies often much quicker than we are able to maintain on the government side.”

This follows a similar contract awarded to in 2021, when Team Hanscom awarded $19.3 million to support a constellation of high-tech weather satellites capable of observing precipitation and storm structures from space.

The most recent contract is very similar to the one from three years ago.

“This contract is more data focused while the last contract was more focused on finalizing and optimizing the design of these satellites,” Fisher said. “They work hand-in-hand and have a similar focus.”

Microwave sounder data is ingested into numerical weather models. Higher revisit rates provide a more recent picture of the globe for the model, in turn providing a more accurate and trustworthy weather forecast.

Maintaining an edge on the adversary while operating efficiently goes a long way toward taking the weather and space arena into the future.

“Think of it in terms of accelerating innovation,” Craft Tarter said. “We are getting innovative and new technology through data as a service without having to design and build the systems ourselves.”

Since 2017, Congress has appropriated funding to the CWDP program to build the commercial weather industry’s support for the DOD. CWDP continues to explore whether other commercial data can supplement, or even replace, existing government sources.