The satellites, which are booked to launch this year, aim to turn errors in weather forecasting from a resigned fate into an unacceptable occurrence. To date the amount of data available for weather forecasting has not kept pace with advancements in weather modeling and simulations, and that lack of data impacts everything and every person on a global scale: from international supply chains to managing municipal road salt usage.
Spire is combining new innovation with existing technology aspects. Through the use of today’s ubiquitous GPS signals, and employing a technique pioneered by NASA in the late 1960’s called GPS Radio Occultation, Spire will collect highly accurate atmospheric data. And by the end of 2015 Spire’s satellites will deliver five times the amount of data currently available, collecting 10,000 readings per day as compared to the 2,000 readings per day available from a collection of publicly funded weather satellites, vastly improving both short and long-term forecasting.
The Current State of Weather Satellites and the Uncertainty in 2016
Spire’s announcement comes when the need for advancements in weather data is at an all-time high. Today there are less than an estimated 20 satellites in orbit that are responsible for providing all of the world’s weather data. Many of these are past their intended decommission date and will either fail or no longer collect accurate information beginning in 2016, potentially resulting in a gap of satellite weather data that, according to the US Government, could last from 1 to 5 years. For the U.S. that could mean the first time in half of a century that it has not had access to crucial data for forecasting and identifying threatening weather conditions, such as tropical depressions and winter storms.
Moreover, each of the weather satellites in orbit today is a traditional satellite — the large, automobile-sized satellite that you might imagine from science fiction or space documentaries. The cost of building and launching a single satellite such as these starts at $300 million and can surpass tens of billions of dollars. Many of these traditional satellites in orbit today have been in operation for over a decade using technology equivalent to a 486 PC (first released in 1989). In contrast, Spire satellites cost a small fraction of these traditional satellites, designed with the equivalent computing power of your latest smartphone, and upgraded every 2-years to keep pace with the rapid technology advancements that we are used to in consumer electronics.
“What if we don’t simply accept that weather is unpredictable and instead do something about it? Imagine what we could do if we could accurately predict weather patterns. Instead of arriving to the airport only to find your flight delayed by fog over one thousand miles away, being stuck in the middle of nowhere on the highway in a snowstorm, or having to watch your frostbitten crop wither and die, we could harness the coming weather to accurately use precious natural resources like water and solar power and protect humans from the impact of the elements. It’s not good enough to simply accept that over 30 percent of the U.S. GDP, or $5.7 trillion, is impacted by weather and climate – we want to do something about it,” said Spire CEO, Peter Platzer.
Key Characteristics of Spire’s New Satellites:
- High Resolution Sensors: Spire sensors measure the GPS signals through Earth’s atmosphere to calculate temperature, pressure, and humidity with higher accuracy and resolution than many other forms of remote sensing technology. This improved resolution means less uncertainty, and more informed decisions backed by hard data.
- Rapid Advancements:Hundreds of billions of dollars are invested annually worldwide to make consumer electronics, robotics, and UAVs smaller, faster, lighter and more powerful. Each new generation of Spire spacecraft leverage these same technology advancements, delivering roughly 750% more computing power than the generation before it.
- Exceptional System Reliability:By spreading the risk of failure across a network of multiple satellites, reliability is ensured on a systemic basis. Any single satellite failure is backed by yet another satellite to take its place.
- Dramatic Increase in Data CollectionSpire’s rapidly advancing technology and software stands on the shoulders of giants by combining groundbreaking work from NASA, NOAA, and the Global Weather Forecasting Community. This satellite data system will provide 5 times more data than the world has today by the end of 2015, 10 times by the end of 2016, and over 100 times the data by the end of 2017.
Spire continues to work hand-in-hand with industry leaders to hone and refine the delivery mechanisms behind its groundbreaking data streams, and will keep pace in its mission to rapidly develop small, low-cost satellites with 20 manifested to launch in 2015. Spire is combining the best of Silicon Valley’s rapid development cycles with the groundbreaking research and innovation happening at publicly funded weather programs around the globe.
Spire is a satellite-powered data company that tackles the world’s most unpredictable business challenges with truly global data solutions. By providing unique data from any point on Earth, every hour, Spire offers a competitive advantage for organizations that require insight into areas such as global trade, weather, shipping and supply chain, illegal fishing, and maritime domain awareness.