Weather intelligence platform Tomorrow.io has announced the on-orbit operation of its first satellite – Tomorrow-R1.
Launched on April 14, 2023, Tomorrow-R1 is the world’s first commercially built weather-radar satellite. It orbits at 500km above Earth in a polar orbit and carries a Ka-band radar ideally suited for detecting precipitation and critical ocean parameters.
Tomorrow-R1 marks the first step in deploying the Tomorrow.io constellation of active and passive sensors, which the company hopes will achieve breakthroughs in global weather forecasting and climate observation, with near real-time scans of precipitation and atmospheric profiles for any point on Earth.
Shimon Elkabetz, CEO and co-founder of Tomorrow.io, said, “Only a handful of atmospheric radars have been launched to space, all built by government agencies with hefty budgets and long development times. Tomorrow.io is offering a step change in price-to-performance ratio, enabled by private innovation. Given their lofty costs, governmental missions have been limited to single satellites with revisit rates in the order of days-to-weeks. With every subsequent launch, Tomorrow.io will get closer to an era of truly proliferated weather sensing from space, closing this decades-old gap. We’re building the de facto GPS network for weather.”
Tomorrow.io’s satellite lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on a SpaceX Falcon 9, separating from the rocket and transmitting initial telemetry data shortly thereafter. After the commissioning process, the radar payload is now operational and providing high-fidelity global precipitation measurements, which are being ingested into Tomorrow.io’s weather intelligence platform.
Rei Goffer, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Tomorrow.io, said, “About five billion people live outside of reliable weather radar coverage today, leading to a huge gap in the quality and availability of life-saving weather information. Those most impacted by climate change are the least equipped to deal with it today, and we are taking a major step to fix this. As the planet moves into an era of climate-induced weather catastrophes, food insecurity, and new levels of volatility and risk, Tomorrow.io’s constellation will power climate adaptation for generations to come.”
Tomorrow.io initially announced its space plans in February 2021. “Our team worked tirelessly to get to this historic moment, and it’s only just the beginning,” said John Springmann, VP of space and sensors at Tomorrow.io. “With the initial satellite data collections complete and our integration into the Tomorrow.io platform, we are confidently moving to the next phase of operationalizing our full-scale constellation.”
Tomorrow.io has been awarded more than US$20m in contracts from the US Department of Defense (DOD) and is executing a collaborative R&D agreement with NOAA. “The prospect of a commercial follow-on mission to the NASA Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (GPM), but with 10 times the revisit rate, presents an incredibly exciting future to the global weather community,” said Dr J Marshall Shepherd, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia.
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