Orbital Micro Systems (OMS), a Colorado-based space tech company specializing in advanced instrumentation for small satellite missions and earth data intelligence platforms, launched its first Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS) constellation satellite yesterday. The satellite, dubbed the IOD-1 GEMS, was launched from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia aboard the International Space Station resupply mission NG011.
More than being the first GEMS satellite that OMS has launched, the IOD-1 GEMS represents a number of other milestones for the space tech company and the space industry at large. For instance, the satellite is equipped with the first commercial microwave radiometer as well as the first 3D printed antenna for space use.
“Launching the IOD-1 GEMS satellite marks several milestones for OMS and the commercial space industry,” commented William Hosack, CEO of OMS. “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.”
The mission is part of the broader In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) Program, which is funded by Innovate UK and managed by the Satellite Applications Catapult. In space, the IOD-1 GEMS satellite is programmed to gather and transmit atmospheric observation data that will be integrated with other atmospheric and weather data sets at the company’s International Center for Earth Data (ICED) in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The recently launched satellite with a 3D printed antenna is the first of a constellation of 48 CubeSats that will be launched into space to gather atmospheric observation data. The constellation is expected to significantly improve the temporal frequency of global microwave radiation observations from days or hours to just 15 minutes. The next six GEMS CubeSats in the mission are expected to launch in early 2020.
The data collected by the satellites will become available to ICED subscribers from the commercial, government and research spheres. The center will aggregate and process the gathered weather data from multiple sources and provide digestible information to its subscribers without delay. The faster weather updates could help to improve crop management for the agriculture industry, route planning for aviation and maritime industries and natural disaster planning and management.
As the company writes on its website: “Billions of people endure unnecessary risk to life, loved ones, and personal property because they don’t have the information they need to prepare for extreme weather changes. All too often, the response to impending weather is reactionary and the result is tragedy. Disastrous typhoons, hurricanes, floods and periods of extreme heat have shown us that weather unpreparedness threatens the safety of millions every day. There is a clear need for more accurate forecasting to enable faster, informed decision-making in the face of weather-driven emergencies.”