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6U CubeSat EO/IR Solutions for Operational Weather Demo


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Space Platforms 

OBJECTIVE: The Air Force is seeking to acquire solutions for an operational weather demonstration through the rapid development of technologies that address the ability to monitor or forecast terrestrial weather with the objective of providing improved global weather data and products for the Department of Defense, commercial, and international missions and applications. This technology demonstration will encourage customer engagement with the United States Air Force weather and remote sensing stakeholders in addition to industry and allied partners. The objective of this topic is a pilot program to assess the viability of commercial satellite weather data to support requirements of the Department of Defense. The Air Force is seeking companies who can complete a feasibility study and deliver validated concepts and solutions via accelerated Phase I and II schedules with opportunities for a direct Phase III award from USAF customers. Target objectives will focus on exploiting defense, commercial, and international launch opportunities for developed solutions to reach orbit as soon as 2020 and deliver low-latency data products to commercial and warfighter customers. Technologies should have a clear commercial model that closes independent of military requirements with existing (i.e. commercial) and upcoming (i.e. products expected to be released soon) solution(s) for conducting EO/IR and other terrestrial weather observations form spaced-based platforms in the form of a 6U CubeSat. The Phase I statement of work will include participation in an Air Force sponsored week long design collaboration with defense, international, and commercial stakeholders to address the feasibility requirements for an operational demonstration (e.g. system design, performance objectives, calibration and validation, etc..). 

DESCRIPTION: The Department of Defense (DOD) relies on data and weather forecasting tools from military, U.S. civil government, and international partner satellite sensors for the Air Force Weather mission. These resources along with other ground and air-based hardware and software technologies provide critical weather information and forecasts for military operations. Current solutions are being sought to advance space-based weather observations for visual application and suitable for assimilation by numerical prediction models. Collaboration between companies to provide an end-to-end solution is a plus. Solutions may also include demonstration of new focal plane technologies, techniques to improve ground resolution, feature identification, and discrimination of layered phenomenon. The end goal calls for performance near current large SWAP EO/IR sensors. It is not required that all of these capabilities come in one product or solution, but it is necessary that any solution that solves part of the weather forecasting problem be able to integrate well with other existing and potential solutions. Solutions for this program should not require intensive research and development studies and should be prepared to quickly assess the technical and operational feasibility to accelerate development and delivery of solution(s) as soon as 2020. Desired solutions are categorized below and offerors can propose any individual or combined solutions: 1. EO/IR and other Space Based Environmental Monitoring (SBEM) sensor payloads that can be integrated into a 6U CubeSat bus with mission concepts for low earth orbit. Special attention will be given on projects that address current and anticipated SBEM gaps as described in the following categories presented in priority order: a. Cloud characterization b. Theater weather imagery c. Ocean surface vector winds d. Ionospheric density e. Snow depth f. Soil moisture g. Equatorial ionospheric scintillation h. Tropical cyclone density i. Sea ice characterization j. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) energetic charged particle characterization k. Electric field Payload solutions should be proposed with Bus options that may be provided in-house, or with other commercial and government furnished equipment. 2. 6U CubeSat bus with ability to quickly integrate EO/IR and other payloads that address the listed SBEM needs for operational capabilities in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) as soon as 2020. 3. Associated tools or techniques for exploitation of the data and integration into Air Force Weather systems and models to be demonstrated as early as 3Q 2020. 

PHASE I: Conduct a feasibility study to determine the effectiveness of existing (i.e. commercial) and upcoming (i.e. products expected to be released soon) solution(s) for conducting EO/IR and other terrestrial weather observations from spaced-based platforms. This feasibility study will include a week-long design sprint with defense, international, and commercial stakeholders to address the feasibility requirements for an operational demonstration. This feasibility study will include: 1. End-to-end system concept review to ensure ability to meet technical and schedule requirements. 2. How the solution(s) will be integrated with a government and industry team demonstrating low latency weather data products for commercial and defense needs. 3. Which aspect(s) of the Weather problem are being addressed by the solution(s). 4. Commercial market identification for solution(s). 5. The breadth of applicability of the solution(s) to the US government. 6. Which government customers will be able to utilize the solution(s). 7. Collaboration with government customers to validate needs and solution(s) that will be most valuable during the operational demo. 8. The solution(s) will be evaluated for cost and feasibility of being integrated with current and future complementary solutions. 9. The solution(s) will be evaluated on how well it will work a constellation of companion satellites that will be delivering data and products to government and commercial customers. 10. How the solution(s) will be able to address potential future Weather technologies and challenges. 11. The potential to keep pace with technological change due to things such as other non-DoD applications and customer bases for the solution(s). The funds obligated on the resulting Phase I SBIR awards will be used for the sole purpose of conducting a thorough feasibility through a collaborative design sprint with defense, international, and commercial stakeholders. The resulting objective of the Phase I SBIR will be for government stakeholders to validate which concepts, if funded in a subsequent phase II, will be able to successfully be a part of an aggressive schedule targeting an operational demo in 2020. 

PHASE II: Based on the Phase I effort, develop and deliver a space qualifiable LEO small satellite 6U CubeSat bus and/or sensor payload to provide cloud cover and characterization data and other macro, meso, and microscale phenomenon determined to be the most feasible solution for the operational weather demo with validated commercial and military utility. Phase II efforts may also include the development of associated tools or techniques for exploitation of the data and integration into Air Force Weather systems and models. This prototype demonstration should focus specifically on: 1. A clear and specific government customer that can immediately utilize the solution(s) during the demonstration. 2. How the solution can integrate with other current and potential future solution(s). 3. How the solution can be sustainable (i.e. supportability). 4. How the demonstration can be used by other DoD, commercial, and allied customers. 5. Utilize standard interfaces to proposed launch vehicles and ground segment. 6. Utilize standard data and mechanical interfaces between payload and bus, if opting to deliver one or the other, e.g., standard fastener sizes, RS-422, Ethernet, etc. Interfaces may be modified during this effort for concurrent developments 

PHASE III: The contractor will pursue commercialization of the various technologies developed in Phase II for transitioning expanded mission capability to a broad range of potential government and civilian users and alternate mission applications. Direct access with end users and government customers will be provided with opportunities to receive Phase III awards for providing the government additional research & development, or direct procurement of products and services developed in coordination with the program. 


1. USA. DoD. GAO. Analysis of Alternatives Is Useful for Certain Capabilities, but Ineffective Coordination Limited Assessment of Two Critical Capabilities. N.p., 10 Mar. 2016. Web. GAO-16-252R; 2. Price, Julie. 2015 JPSS Science Seminar Annual Digest. Rep. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Web.

KEYWORDS: CubeSat, Cloud Characterization, Theater Weather Imagery, Earth Environments, Sensors, Calibration, Data, Satellite, Commercial, Weather 

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