We are deploying a series of remote sensing capabilities on our CICERO constellation of Earth observing nanosatellites. Collection of Earth observation data has traditionally been the preserve of national and multi-national government organizations. These organizations face dramatically increased demand for public services while suffering from expanding procurement costs and extended delays. Our leaders have spent decades working to improve the way that governments create Earth science data, and put that experience into designing the GeoOptics system. We are offering the most advanced and prolific Earth science data available to private companies as well as to governments, providing dependable, compelling and continuously improving information to people around the world.
We are first deploying a technology called GPS radio occultation (GPS-RO). Our founder Tom Yunck originally proposed the technique in 1988, and oversaw the development and improvement of the world’s leading capability at the Jet Propulsions Laboratory. Over the last decade a series of government-funded satellites have refined the technology and proven out its tremendous capability. GPS-RO satellites now provide some of the most accurate weather and climate data available, offering significantly more impact per measurement than traditional weather instruments.
The GPS-RO technique leverages one of the greatest public investments of our time, the GPS satellite constellation. These satellites transmit incredibly accurate signals at all times, commonly used to locate people or places on the surface of Earth. Our satellites instead observe the GPS signals as they traverse the atmosphere, refracting much like light does as it passes through a lens. By measuring the bending of the GPS signals, it is possible to extract detailed information on the density and temperature of the atmosphere through which they pass.
The technique requires extremely precise measurements of the GPS signals, and that precision traditionally required large satellites. However, over the last few years, we have worked with our partners at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Tyvak to commercialize and miniaturize this technology, using many of the technologies now found in smartphones. By launching smaller, less expensive satellites, we will be able to make orders of magnitude more data available to weather forecasters and scientists around the world. The first CICERO satellite is scheduled for launch in 2016, with more to follow soon thereafter.
In the meantime, we are also developing technology to enable the next great leap in Earth observation from space. Working in partnership NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, we aim to expand the capabilities of our nanosatellites beyond their current capabilities to detect the minute changes of the Earth’s gravitational field that represent the flow of water around the world, in oceans, lakes and rivers, snow and ice packs and even under the Earth’s surface. Through this project, we’re excited to be working with NASA to pioneer the future of Earth exploration, and will provide more updates as that work progresses.
For more history and details on the GPS radio occultation technique, see our expanded page on the topic.