In a novel application of space-based atmospheric measurements, Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) of Lexington, Massachusetts, in collaboration with GeoOptics Inc. of Pasadena, CA, is investigating the use of radio occultation measurements to improve severe weather forecasting. Pairing state-of-the-art, high-fidelity weather models with the rapidly evolving technology of miniaturized satellites in a scientific investigation is unique and new. The results of this study are not only intriguing from a science/discovery point of view, but have the distinct possibility of becoming a reality with the CICERO project in the next decade.
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GeoOptics is an environmental data company that will deliver a wealth of information about our changing planet to public and private users worldwide. Key applications will include operational daily weather forecasting and long-term environmental monitoring and research.
GeoOptics was founded by working scientists, engineers, and data users in response to the increasingly urgent need for actionable information about the state of our planet and the impacts of human activity on quality of life — and on Earth’s future.
GeoOptics will deliver data and related services to scientists and decision-makers around the world from sensors deployed on a constellation of small satellites in low Earth orbit. Known as CICERO (Community Initiative for Continuous Earth Remote Observation), the system will start small, with two Pathfinder satellites performing atmospheric sensing for weather forecasting and climate monitoring. It will grow to 24 or more satellites over about four years, with a wide range of environmental and security applications.
ADDRESSING AN URGENT NEED
The accelerating changes in Earth’s environment affect our lives in myriad ways. Weather, water, air quality, vegetation, ocean circulation, invasive species, and solar activity are just a few of the factors affecting us on local, regional, and global scales. Understanding and predicting the processes that shape our environment has become more urgent as population expands and becomes more dependent on a vulnerable technology base. Extreme events (hurricanes, tornados, drought, tsunamis) are claiming an increasing toll in life and property, and appear to be growing more intense as the climate warms.
GeoOptics will provide accurate, timely, and voluminous data from a dedicated smallsat network.
Environmental data has broad application across many industries, latitudes, and societies. Transpacific shipping is massively affected by weather. Trans-polar air-traffic is affected by activity in the ionosphere. Crop yields depend on precipitation, temperature, and long-term climate trends. Power grids and our technological infrastructure are at risk from geomagnetic storms caused by solar activity. Off-shore oil exploration relies on accurate storm forecasting. Wind power generation depends on local and regional weather trends, short and long term. Carbon trading relies on accurate measurements of atmospheric carbon and surface sources and sinks. Changes in the environment affect us all.
GeoOptics and its partners will measure, analyze, and predict environmental phenomena.
TIMELY DELIVERY OF DATA
Environmental change is continuous, sometimes abrupt, occasionally extreme. It is critical to deliver global observational data rapidly, reliably, and without interruption. Environmental changes don’t respect human schedules and don’t discriminate by region.
GeoOptics will deliver data in near real time from a global array of sensors, 24/7, year round.
GeoOptics was created to collect and deliver data. Although our Pathfinder will use a specific set of sensing technologies for weather and climate, we plan to extend the “cellular” observing paradigm to the full gamut of non-imaging sensing methods of use to society. An integrated private company can deploy such systems for a fraction – typically less than 30% – of what it costs governments, working through the cumbersome cost-plus government contracting system. A company can then recover its costs by marketing the data to potentially hundreds of (primarily government) user agencies around the world. A typical dedicated remote sensing satellite that may cost an agency like NASA hundreds of millions of dollars to deploy and operate, can be replaced by a commercial equivalent that costs each user entity an average of a few hundred thousand dollars per year in data subscription fees. Everyone wins.
GeoOptics will deliver data at a dramatically lower cost per measurement than is possible today.
Environmental data is becoming increasingly critical in individual and institutional planning and decision making. The uninterrupted delivery of reliable, validated data is crucial to the smooth functioning of our institutions and the orderly conduct of our daily lives.
GeoOptics is dedicated to delivering fully validated data without significant interruption.
LONG TERM SUSTAINABILITY
Collection of Earth Observation data has traditionally been the preserve of national and multi-national government organizations. These organizations face inordinate procurement costs and increasing demands on dwindling government resources. Systems funded today may be cancelled tomorrow. Legislative priorities may change. We see the wreckage of such programs everywhere. Traditional procurement models require large up-front investments, often with years between investment and data production. Large overruns and delays are commonplace. The GeoOptics business model supports the deployment, maintenance, and indefinite replenishment of a dedicated observing system through user subscriptions. Users pay on delivery of validated data. Data flows continuously and indefinitely for as long as subscriptions are maintained.
GeoOptics will continuously operate, maintain, and expand CICERO as long as demand lasts.
DEVELOPED BY USERS FOR USERS
GeoOptics was founded under a new model of community-based space development for the public good that will change the way the world collects and disseminates Earth observational data. The company was created by current and former users of Environmental Earth Data. GeoOptics was born of the belief that its founders and the user community can execute worthy missions by working cooperatively. They can raise funds privately and defray costs through subscriptions by hundreds of user groups, rather than waiting upon the uncertain outcomes of public solicitations. Science communities working with private partners can realize uncommon efficiencies to deliver path-breaking science speedily, at bargain prices.
GeoOptics will implement a new model for collecting Earth data – a community of users working for users.
DISTINGUISHED RECORD, REVOLUTIONARY FUTURE
GeoOptics was conceived by technical innovators. Principal founder Dr. Thomas Yunck was the original proposer of the GPS radio occultation technique in 1988. For 20 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory he led development of every aspect of GPS RO technology, from sensor design to end-to-end data analysis systems. In addition, Dr. Yunck conceived and proposed NASA’s GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) in 1993. GRACE, which is still operating after 11 years in space, is one of NASA’s most productive and cost-effective climate missions. The GeoOptics team recently developed proprietary new technology to improve GRACE performance by nearly a factor of ten, at an even lower cost than GRACE.
Dr. Yunck holds the basic patent on the “state space” approach to Wide Area Differential GPS positioning, licensed by the FAA for its Wide Area Augmentation System and by private industry in the $100M/year business of centimeter-level positioning for precision agriculture and other applications. For these innovations Dr. Yunck was inducted into the Space Foundation’s Space Technology Hall of Fame in 2004. GeoOptics has collected a nucleus of remote sensing technology innovators and now boasts a diverse portfolio of proprietary remote sensing technologies that will bring the revolutionary “cellular” model to gravity recovery, ocean circulation and surface winds, ice and snow monitoring, land cover / land use, soil moisture, land topography, and a variety of other critical environmental applications.
GeoOptics will transform Earth remote sensing with its 21st century cellular observing model.