BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 19, 2014—Under a new contract with the U.S. Air Force, PlanetiQ LLC will provide an adaptable on-orbit platform for hosting U.S. government payloads as a subcontractor to Millennium Engineering and Integration Company. PlanetiQ, which plans to launch the first commercial constellation of weather and climate satellites, and Millennium are partnering under a contract awarded by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) through its Hosted Payload Solutions program. The multi-award contract is worth up to $495 million.
PlanetiQ's initial constellation of 12 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites is expected to be fully deployed by 2017, with six more satellites planned for launch by 2019, providing the U.S. government with flexible payload and launch opportunities at a much lower cost than traditional LEO missions. The Millennium-led team of highly experienced satellite design, launch and operations providers will enable the Air Force and other government organizations to meet mission objectives by providing access to a fully integrated hosted payload system, including host spacecraft, ground system, data delivery and program management.
The PlanetiQ constellation will collect over 8 million observations per day for greatly enhanced weather forecasting, climate monitoring and space weather prediction. The primary technology onboard will be the fourth-generation radio occultation sensor, licensed exclusively by PlanetiQ and based on the gold standard for radio occultation sensors currently on orbit. The fourth-generation sensor is smaller, lighter, and requires less power than previous versions, leaving plenty of capacity to host additional payloads.
Radio occultation is a proven technique to derive high-precision vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature, pressure and water vapor used in numerical weather prediction, as well as measurements of the ionosphere to support space weather alerting, by observing the bending of GPS signals as they travel through Earth's atmosphere. The PlanetiQ radio occultation sensor will receive signals from all four major Global Navigation Satellite Systems--GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou--allowing the constellation to collect over 30,000 occultations per day.
Data will be delivered to customers in less than three minutes from being collected via the Inmarsat communications satellite network. This near real-time delivery is critical to the weather and space weather forecasting requirements of meteorological agencies, militaries and numerous industries worldwide.
PlanetiQ is leveraging private funds to build and launch the world's first commercial constellation of weather satellites. That means no up-front costs to government or commercial customers, who pay only after data is delivered to specifications. The PlanetiQ Foundation will provide data to researchers free of charge.
For more information, please visit www.planetiq.com.