There has been some worry lately that aging weather satellites, which are predicted to deteriorate or fail within the next few years, will leave a gap in the data used by forecasters. Fortunately, private Bethesda, Md., company PlanetIQ has proposed to step in and fill this gap with a constellation of 12 small satellites in low-Earth orbit.
The company even says the federal government could access data from this constellation at less cost and risk than current government-funded efforts.
According to PlanetIQ CEO Anne Hale Miglarese, the company's proposal would also improve weather forecast accuracy and warning lead times, mitigate the risk of harmful gaps in satellite date, and relieve pressure on existing over-budget, behind-schedule government satellite programs. Miglarese went on to add that all 12 satellites could be in orbit within 28 to 34 months from beginning the manufacturing process.
PlanetIQ would sell collected data to government weather services around the world, as well as to the U.S. Air Force, for a reasonable price.
"We estimate that for all U.S. civilian and defense needs globally for both terrestrial and space weather applications, the cost to government agencies in the U.S. will be less than $70 million per year," said Miglarese in a statement.
By contrast, the polar-orbiting satellite most recently launched by the government in 2011 cost $1.5 billion.
This proposal has obviously piqued the interest of the federal government, as National Weather Service spokesperson Chris Vaccaro wrote in an e-mail, "We welcome any reliable data that helps the National Oceanic (News - Alert) and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service meet its mission requirements, while also being cost-effective and properly reflected in our budget."
The fact that PlanetIQ hasn't launched a satellite before is perhaps the only point of concern in its proposal, but its strategic investors — Moog, Moog Broad Reach Engineering, and Millennium Engineering and Integration — have each designed and manufactured "hundreds of space programs, with great success," according to Miglarese.
Edited by Braden Becker