General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems is designing a prototype weather satellite for the U.S. Space Force. The Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center awarded Other Transaction Authority agreements through the Space Enterprise Consortium to three companies to design prototypes for the Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System. Credit: General Atomics

SAN FRANCISCO – General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems announced an agreement Aug. 4 to design a prototype for the U.S. Space Force Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System, known as EWS.

“EWS will demonstrate new technologies and lead to optimized future capabilities for effective weather prediction,” Nick Bucci, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Missile Defense and Space Systems vice president, said in a statement. “Combining [General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems’] proven expertise in satellite design and manufacturing will lead to production of a cost-effective future high-performance weather satellite constellation.”

The Space and Missile Systems Center announced the award June 3 of three Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreements, with a total value of $309 million, to Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates, General Atomics and Raytheon Technologies to develop weather satellite prototypes. With the funding, contractors were authorized to begin designing spacecraft and ordering parts for sensors to characterize clouds globally and observe weather in military theaters, according to a June 3 Space and Missile Systems Center news release.

General Atomics is basing its EWS design on its Orbital Test Bed, a scalable, modular platform designed to accommodate multiple payloads.

“With EWS we will continue to leverage our expertise in developing scalable architectures and volume-efficient packaging, as well as our expanding satellite manufacturing capabilities to rapidly design and deliver an [electro-optical/infrared] satellite solution to meet the proposed EWS launch date in 2022,” Scott Forney, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems president, said in a statement.

The Space and Missile Systems Center selected EWS competitors through the Space Enterprise Consortium. Under the OTA agreements, contractors must rely to a significant extent on the work of nontraditional defense contractors.

General Atomics teammates for EWS are: EOVista, LLC, an electro-optical sensor company in Acton, Massachusetts; Atmospheric and Environmental Research Inc., a science and technology firm in Lexington, Massachusetts; and Braxton Technologies, LLC, a software specialist in Colorado Springs.

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, based in San Diego, California, opened a new spacecraft development, integration and test factory in Centennial, Colorado in April, tripling its satellite production capacity.

General Atomics’ first Orbital Test Bed, launched in 2019 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy, housed five distinct payloads for commercial, government and academic customers. NASA awarded General Atomics a $38.5 million contract in 2018 to send the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols into orbit on the second Orbital Test Bed.

General Atomics won a $37.9 million contract in 2018 to fly the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Argos Advanced Data Collection System on the third Orbital Test Bed. The company also won a $32.9 million contract in July to house NASA’s Total and Spectral solar Irradiance-2 spacecraft in an Orbital Test Bed.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...