WASHINGTON — The Defense Innovation Unit and the U.S. Air Force announced Oct. 26 they selected five companies to help build weather models using data from satellites, aerial and terrestrial sensors. 

Muon Space, Tomorrow.io, Windborne Systems, Greensight and NextGen Federal Systems won contracts to demonstrate the integration of commercial data into the U.S. Air Force Weather Virtual Private Cloud. 

The Air Force 557th Weather Wing, the military’s primary meteorology center, uses data from a wide range of sources to build weather models, which the U.S. military relies upon to plan operations and for long-term research to understand the impact of climate change. 

DIU, a Defense Department agency created to work with commercial tech industries, said the companies will have to show that “data sources and interfaces are compatible with the Air Force’s Weather Virtual Private Cloud.”

DoD will use the commercial data for weather forecasting and climate change assessments, DIU said. In this prototype, vendors were selected based on their ability to provide data from outside the continental United States.

Data collected during this pilot project will be made available for experiments and research across the U.S. government, DIU said.

“With the help of DIU, we’re accelerating the delivery of commercial weather sensing technology to meet the operational need,” said John Dreher, materiel leader for weather systems at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

Two space industry startups — Muon Space and Tomorrow.io — will participate in the project.

Muon Space designs small satellites and sensing instruments that it plans to launch to orbit to monitor the atmosphere and oceans, and predict climate-related change. 

Tomorrow.io is developing a constellation with a mix of small radar-sensing weather satellites and microwave sounders. The company last year won a $19.3 million U.S. Air Force contract to support the development of the company’s weather satellites and provide data as a service to the military and other governmental agencies. 

Greensight developed a product called WeatherHive, an atmospheric monitoring technology system that uses nano-sized drones to measure atmospheric conditions.

NextGen Federal Systems, a data analytics firm, will develop an artificial-intelligence prototype platform to curate commercial weather data.

WindBorne Systems designs, builds, and operates a constellation of long-duration weather balloons for global in-situ weather observations.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...