On April 17 (2019), Orbital Micro Systems (OMS) scored a successful launch of the first weather observation satellite in its Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS) constellation, from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. A D-Band microwave radiometer is the core sensor on the satellite.
The IOD-1 GEMS satellite is the first of a planned constellation of 48 CubeSats that will dramatically improve the availability of global microwave radiation observations, from hours — even days — to intervals approaching 15 minutes. OMS expects to launch six additional GEMS satellites during the first months of 2020, completing the constellation in late 2121.
After being deployed, the IOD-1 satellite will gather and transmit atmospheric observation data, which will be integrated with other atmospheric and weather data at OMS’ International Center for Earth Data (ICED) in Edinburgh. A substantial portion of Earth’s surface and atmosphere is under-observed, and current accessible weather information does not always meet the desired standards. The IOD-1 GEMS observation satellite will improve coverage and update times significantly, providing data for industry sectors such as agriculture, insurance and transportation. More accurate and timely weather data will improve forecasting, financial modeling and operations.
Data collected by the GEMS satellites will be available to commercial, government and research subscribers. ICED aggregates and processes weather information from multiple sources, providing easily consumable information to subscribers, sometimes within minutes of collection. The data produced from ICED will have a tangible impact on the lives of millions of people in all areas of the world, including improved crop management in the world’s farming communities, safer route planning in the aviation and maritime industries and better catastrophe risk management in areas where natural disasters are prevalent.
112–125 GHz Radiometer
A radiometer operating in the 112 to 125 GHz frequency band and using a 3D printed corrugated horn antenna is the core instrument on the satellite, used to observe water and oxygen. The millimeter wave sensor is supplemented with infrared cameras to measure temperature wavelength and filtered visible cameras for determining the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI).
The IOD-1 GEMS satellite flew aboard the International Space Station resupply mission NG-11, part of the In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) program, funded by Innovate UK and managed by the Satellite Applications Catapult.
“Launching the IOD-1 GEMS satellite marks several milestones for OMS and the commercial space industry. We’re delighted to contribute the first commercial microwave radiometer and the first 3D printed antenna for space use to the mission. But most importantly, through the support and collaboration with Satellite Applications Catapult and other IOD team members, OMS is now positioned to be a market leader in gathering and delivering actionable comprehensive, accurate and frequent weather data.” — William Hosack, OMS CEO