GeoMetWatch Taps Exelis for Weather Sensors

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WASHINGTON — Exelis Geospatial Systems will design and build the infrared sounding instruments that commercial weather satellite startup GeoMetWatch plans to fly as hosted payloads on commercial and possibly government satellites operating in geostationary orbit.

The companies announced the deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, in a joint press release March 25. They did not say how many sensors Exelis would deliver under the deal, but GeoMetWatch’s remote sensing license from the U.S. Commerce Department permits it to operate up to six sounders in geostationary orbit.

It was not immediately clear what the arrangement means for the Sounding and Tracking Observatory for Regional Meteorology (STORM) instrument around which GeoMetWatch of North Logan, Utah, built its original business plan. GeoMetWatch early last year contracted with a laboratory run by the Utah State University to build the first STORM hyperspectral sensor, which is based on a design for a government satellite that never flew.

The Exelis-built GeoMetWatch instruments will be based on the Exelis’ Advanced Baseline Imager, the first of which is set to launch in 2016 aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s newest geostationary weather satellite, the Lockheed Martin-built Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R.

The launch date of the first GeoMetWatch sounder is uncertain. In 2013, the company secured an agreement from Hong Kong-based AsiaSat to host a STORM sensor aboard its AsiaSat 9 telecommunications satellite slated to launch in 2017. But GeoMetWatch has been unable to secure the necessary financing, and AsiaSat, facing satellite manufacturer Space Systems Loral’s deadline for a decision on whether to include the 300-kilogram sensor, said GeoMetWatch was just about out of time.

Forest Fackrell, a spokesman for GeoMetWatch, did not respond by press time to questions regarding the status or future of the STORM sensor.