Successful first In-Orbit Demonstration for innovative weather monitoring satellite, IOD-1 GEMS

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April 17 2021 marked the second anniversary of the Satellite Applications Catapult’s first in-orbit demonstration launch, IOD-1 GEMS. The mission, in partnership with Orbital Micro Systems (OMS), and subsequently its UK subsidiary, Weather Stream, has surpassed all expectations and received a series of mission extensions, far exceeding the scheduled nine months.

IOD-1 GEMS trialled OMS market-leading Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS) – the highest spatial resolution microwave temperature sounder ever flown – acquiring weather intelligence data whilst providing a smaller, more cost-effective, and efficient solution to current weather satellites, with lower latency due to being in a lower orbit.

Amongst the 1,200 hours of weather data IOD-1 GEMS has captured were images of Super Typhoon Hagibis in between a 10-hour gap of government satellite transmission in the Pacific Ocean. Information collected by the satellite displayed the collapse of the eyewall whilst travelling towards the Japanese coast – a sign of the Hurricane’s increasing intensity. The mission also captured Hurricane Douglas and the Australian wildfires, demonstrating clear commercial, military, and governmental potential.

One of the major achievements of the Catapult team – led by Space Missions Analyst, Graeme Taylor, and including Satellite Operators George Addison and Nikos Tsitsilonis, and Programme Manager Martin Dix – was the automation of the operation.

“<em>In the very beginning, we were doing everything manually. It was almost two people controlling the satellite full-time in the operations centre. But we implemented automation to gradually get it down to one of us, a few hours per day, working from a laptop at home. It’s a great achievement.</em>” said Graeme.

Stuart Martin, CEO at the Catapult, said: “<em>This mission has been a huge success, and it’s been a pleasure working with Orbital Micro Systems since 2017. It is hugely rewarding to be able to support a business with a brilliant new technology and to watch them grow to success in such a short period of time.</em>”

“<em>From all counts, IOD-1 GEMS1 was a resounding success. It enabled OMS to launch its commercial Earth Observation data offerings to business and government customers across the globe and demonstrate that the technology meets—and exceeds—operational requirements,” said Michael Hurowitz, OMS Chief Technology Officer and Chief Executive Officer. “The teams from OMS, Satellite Applications Catapult and other partners all pulled together to achieve extraordinary outcomes. The UK has an aggressive space ecosystem, and we would encourage entrepreneurial space technology developers to explore opportunities such as the IOD programme</em>.”

The consortium plans to release telemetry data from the mission for the benefit of students and satellite companies. By sharing the experience through data, the Catapult fosters future innovation in space.

The success of this first mission lays a solid foundation for IOD-3 scheduled for launch later in 2021.