Ball Aerospace is aiming for a late 2023 delivery of the Weather System Follow-on–Microwave satellite under a $349 million fixed-price contract awarded in 2018. A second WFS-M could launch in 2028. Credit: Ball Aerospace

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force has ordered a second environmental satellite known as the Weather System Follow-on Microwave, or WSF-M, made by Ball Aerospace.

The first one was purchased in 2018 and is projected to launch in 2024.

The Space Force announced Nov. 9 it awarded the company a $78.2 million contract modification, exercising an option to acquire a second WSF-M satellite that would launch in 2028. 

Since the Air Force selected the company in 2017, Ball Aerospace has received awards worth about $417.3 million for WSF-M. According to the contract terms, the Space Force had to exercise the option for the second satellite by November 2022 or be subject to renegotiation. 

Each satellite is estimated to cost $511 million, according to the Department of the Air Force. They were designed to replace the most critical capabilities of the U.S. military’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), an aging constellation that is expected to run out of service life in the near future. 

WSF-M has a microwave imager instrument to collect weather data including the measurement of ocean surface wind speed and direction, ice thickness, snow depth, soil moisture and local space weather. Both spacecraft will operate in a polar orbit. 

“WSF-M will provide U.S. and allied warfighters with essential weather data,” the Space Force said. “The data gathered by WSF-M will be provided to meteorologists in support of the generation of a wide variety of weather products necessary to conduct mission planning and operations globally every day.”

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...