Lockheed Martin built the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, an instrument on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R Series. Credit: NOAA and NASA

SAN FRANCISCO – Lockheed Martin and Maxar Space won contracts worth $5 million apiece to help define the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s future geostationary weather satellite program.

NOAA announced the Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) Spacecraft Phase A Study contracts July 26, which NASA awarded on behalf of NOAA.

Under the contracts, each company will spend ten months developing the GeoXO spacecraft concept, maturing necessary technologies and helping define the spacecraft’s potential performance, risks, costs and development schedule. The results of the study will help NASA and NOAA establish requirements for GeoXO spacecraft development contracts scheduled to be awarded in 2024.

“We are super excited about NASA and NOAA’s GeoXO program,” Adrián Cuadra, Lockheed Martin’s weather and Earth science director, told SpaceNews by email. “It’s going to build on the technology we have today and be an absolute game-changer for the future of severe weather forecasting, ocean and climate monitoring.”

Lockheed Martin builds two instruments on the current geostationary weather constellation, Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) R Series: the Geostationary Lightning Mapper and Solar Ultraviolet Imager.

“We know what it takes to be successful and are very much looking forward to continuing our trusted partnership, focused on the mission of saving lives,” Cuadra added.

Maxar also has a history of work on NOAA weather satellites. Maxar manufactured eight of NOAA’s first- and second-generation GOES satellites in the 1970s and 1990s, Chris Johnson, Maxar senior vice president and general manager of Space, said by email.

“Maxar is committed to helping customers use spacecraft and space-based data to further efforts to study weather patterns and mitigate climate change, so this GeoXO study contract is the next evolution of that work,” Johnson added.

In the early 2030s, NOAA plans to begin operating three GeoXO satellites. One over the Eastern and one over the Western United States, like the current GOES-R series, plus a third satellite over the central United States.

With the GeoXO constellation, NOAA seeks improved imagery compared with the GOES-R Series. The agency also intends to continue mapping lightning and observing space weather from GeoXO satellites.

In addition, the constellation will fly ocean color instruments and the centrally-located GeoXO spacecraft will carry a hyperspectral infrared sounder and an atmospheric composition instrument.

NOAA funds, operates and manages the GeoXO mission. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the study contract awards.

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...