We areÂ deploying a series of remote sensing capabilities on our CICERO constellation of Earth observing nanosatellites.Â Collection of Earth observation data has traditionally been the preserve of national and multi-national government organizations.Â These organizations face dramatically increased demand for public services while suffering from expandingÂ procurement costs and extended delays. OurÂ leadersÂ have spent decades working to improve the way that governmentsÂ create Earth science data, and put that experience into designing the GeoOptics system. We areÂ offering the most advanced and prolific Earth science dataÂ available to private companies as well as to governments,Â providing dependable, compelling and continuously improvingÂ informationÂ to people around the world.
We are first deploying a technology called GPSÂ 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 satellitesÂ 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 leveragesÂ 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, refractingÂ much likeÂ light does as it passes through a lens. By measuring the bending of the GPS signals, it is possible to extract detailed information on theÂ density and temperature of the atmosphere through which they pass.
The technique requires extremely precise measurements of the GPS signals, and that precision traditionally requiredÂ large satellites.Â However, over the last few years, we haveÂ worked with our partners at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and TyvakÂ to commercialize and miniaturize this technology,Â using many of the technologies now found in smartphones. By launching smaller, less expensive satellites, we willÂ be able toÂ makeÂ orders of magnitude more data available to weather forecasters and scientists around the world. The first CICERO satellite is scheduled forÂ 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 partnershipÂ NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate,Â 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 ofÂ Earth exploration, and will provide more updates as that work progresses.
For more history and detailsÂ on the GPS radio occultation technique, see our expanded page on the topic.