PlanetIQ officials are ecstatic with the weather data collected by the company’s first operational satellite, which was launched in June and is based in Golden, Colorado. In fact, the company is soliciting funds to speed up its quest to construct a 20-satellite radio occultation constellation for the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) by 2024. PlanetIQ Chief Executive Officer Steve Joanis informed SpaceNews, “Based on the proved metrics of our inaugural spacecraft, we are soliciting extra cash to hasten the deployment of our constellation.”
PlanetIQ is a company which was founded in the year 2012 by engineers and scientists who earlier were working on the US-Taiwanese Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (COSMIC), its replacement COSMIC-2, the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s KOMPSAT-5, and the Airbus Defence and Space satellites Tandem-X, Paz and TerraSAR-X. PlanetIQ’s purpose was to develop the world’s highest-performing radio occultation mission dependent on the exact number of the daily readings received and the sensor’s signal-to-noise ratio when it was founded.
PlanetIQ’s GNSS Navigation and Occultation Measurement Satellite (GNOMES) 2, deployed on SpaceX Falcon 9 Transporter-2 rideshare flight on June 30, achieved that aim, according to company executives. “Not only is the GNOMES-2 instrument’s quality better than the COSMIC-2 device, which our team constructed in 2012,” Joanis stated, “but it also has the lowest cost per reading.”
GNOMES-2 uses a radio occultation antenna, which has a large-aperture, to collect 2,500 soundings of daily radio occultation that follow the four GNSS constellations: the United States GPS, Europe’s Galileo, Russia’s Glonass, and China’s Beidou. Because, like weather balloons, radio occultation soundings display temperature, pressure, and humidity via an atmospheric column, they are important inputs for the numerical weather models. Satellite soundings also reach into the ionosphere and give global coverage, particularly over oceans where very few weather balloons are launched.
Radio occultation missions that intend to give data near the Earth’s surface require a high signal-to-noise ratio. Radio occultation signals for the lowest 2 kilometers of the Earth’s atmosphere are frequently dismissed by numerical weather prediction centers due to concerns about their accuracy.
“Variations in temperature and water vapor in the lower troposphere can generate an optical mirage effect,” PlanetIQ founder and chairman Chris McCormick explained. “The RF frequencies employed for radio occultations exhibit this behavior as well. The increased signal-to-noise ratio allows you to assess whether or not this phenomenon is present.”
Forecasts of hurricanes and other severe weather can be underestimated without observations of the water vapor close to the ground, according to McCormick. The US Air Force is now receiving satellite data from PlanetIQ for review. Meanwhile, representatives from other government agencies which are responsible for collecting the radio occultation data, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, are meeting with corporate executives.