Satnews Daily
December 12th, 2017

Orbital Micro Systems' Miniature Weather Observation System to Send in Smallsat

Orbital Micro Systems Ltd. (OMS) has executed a contract with the Satellite Applications Catapult to place their miniaturized weather observation technology into space — the mission is part of the In Orbit Demonstration (IOD) Program, funded by Innovate UK and managed by the Catapult.

The IOD space mission, scheduled for the autumn of 2018, will deliver the first OMS satellite to orbit and is expected to immediately change the global availability of weather data by delivering detailed weather information which complements data available from the large institutional satellites currently in use. Using a number of innovative engineering techniques, OMS has reduced the footprint from satellites weighing up to 2,500 kg. down to a package the size of a shoebox.  Just as importantly, OMS technology reduces weather satellite deployment costs by some 95 percent.

The payload, consisting of a 10x10x15 centimeter-sized instrument in a 3U cubesat satellite form factor, will be launched in autumn 2018 by NanoRacks and put into LEO via that company's cubesat deployer (NRCSD) on the International Space Station (ISS) — via NanoRacks’ Space Act Agreement with NASA’s U.S. National Lab. Innovate UK has invested £1.5 million in the IOD program, which offers a CubeSat platform from Clyde Space and associated launch for four missions.

OMS projects its Global Environmental Monitoring Satellite (GEMS) program will scale to some 35 units on orbit, providing temperature, humidity and precipitation at different levels throughout the atmosphere, with a 15 minute refresh rate — for any point on the globe. OMS anticipates delivering actionable weather data to a wide variety of markets including aerospace, maritime transportation, agriculture, insurance and energy. Airlines and shipping companies will be able to plan routes that optimize weather conditions, reducing delays, fuel consumption and emissions while operating with greater safety. Reductions of transoceanic flight times by just three minutes per segment will save the global airline industry nearly one million dollars in a single day. The insurance markets will be able to transfer risk in near real-time, providing better support for their clients and freeing up more capital to expand reinsurance coverage.

The vastly improved refresh rate will also allow for more accurate forecasting and tracking of major weather events such as hurricanes, and better weather mitigation planning for farmers around the world, improving the stability and security of the global food supply.

William Hosack, OMS CEO, said that the Global Entrepreneurs Program in the UK introduced the organization to the rich and energized space and science ecosystem in the UK and the decision to build a significant presence in the Harwell Technology campus was quickly made. The In Orbit Demonstration Program allows the technology to gain space and then demonstrate its viability to investors and customers. Most importantly, this mission enables OMS to take the first steps in creating an entirely new paradigm in weather data utilization.

Stuart Martin, CEO, Satellite Applications Catapult, added that his company's role is to grow the market for space-based services and to make certain the UK is at the forefront of such work. The IOD Program is a prime example of the sort of opportunity available here and nowhere else; an innovator with a bright idea could see their concept realized and working, in space, within 16 months.

Tim Just, Head of Space, Innovate UK, noted that this ground-breaking project from Orbital Micro Systems is exactly the type of innovative technology all wanted to see on the IOD mission. The decision by the company to invest in the UK at Harwell is a significant vote of confidence in the UK space sector as well as in the work of the Satellite Applications Catapult.