GeoOptics is developing a constellation of small satellites to collect data about Earth’s climate and environment from low Earth orbit (LEO). The constellation is called CICERO, for Community Initiative for Continuous Earth Remote Observation. The first CICERO satellite is scheduled to be launched in late 2015.
CICERO will initially perform GPS and Galileo radio occultation (GNSS-RO) of Earth’s atmosphere as described under the Science tab above. The sensors will deliver critical data on the state of the earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere to scientists and decision makers worldwide. Products will include high-accuracy profiles of atmospheric density, pressure, temperature, moisture, and winds, as well as 3D maps of the electron distribution in the ionosphere. Principal applications will be weather forecasting, climate research, and space weather monitoring.
CICERO will be built up over time, starting with the launch of a first spacecraft in late 2015. The initial operational constellation (CICERO-I) will consist of six LEOs in multiple orbit planes for broad global coverage. CICERO-I is expected to be operational in at the end of 2016. The constellation will be expanded to 12 satellites in 2017 and to 24 satellites in 2018.
Typical space based Earth sensors are sizable instruments carried on large spacecraft, typically costing hundreds of millions of dollars each for the instrument alone. The average cost of a focused, single-purpose mission on NASA’s Earth science “Decadal Survey” list is approaching $1 billion. The cost of multi-sensor super-platforms, such as the next-generation weather satellites of NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System, now exceeds $5 billion each. Despite these extraordinary costs, sensors on a single platform have limited coverage and can take a full day or many days to cover most of the earth.
CICERO introduces an altogether different approach. It will comprise many small spacecraft, each equipped with one or more small, low-cost, high-performance sensors, exploiting the same micro-technologies found in modern cell phones and notebook computers. The spacecraft design is modular for low-cost expandability and versatility. Deployed as a distributed network, the system will provide global coverage in less than one hour and deliver improved measurement quality, all at a substantially lower cost than traditional systems.
GeoOptics was founded in 2006 just as the first dedicated GPS Radio Occultation constellation, COSMIC (see www.cosmic.ucar.edu), was launched. At that time, following multiple experimental missions, it was clear that GPS RO was the atmospheric sensing technique of the future, delivering unprecedented measurement accuracy and vertical resolution at a tiny fraction of the cost of conventional sensors. Since then, GeoOptics and its partners have been working meticulously – raising financing and advancing the technology – towards the deployment of the first operational constellation. Major events and milestones include:
|2008||NOAA Issues RFQ for the provision of key environmental data products by commercial means|
|2010||Preliminary system design is completed, identifying major needed technology development needs|
|GeoOptics completes first round of financing, raising multiple millions of dollars|
|Prototype spacecraft design presented to investors and stakeholders|
|GeoOptics signs MOU with University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) to collaborate on CICERO|
|2011||Development of key technologies continues for CICERO system|
|Second round of financing complete, bringing total raised to more than $10 million|
|GeoOptics signs long term teaming agreement with CU/LASP|
|GeoOptics moves into new Boulder facility, collocated with CU/LASP|
|2012||Initial engineering model spacecraft to be completed at LASP|
|2015||Launch of the first CICERO Pathfinder spacecraft|
|2015||Launch of the second CICERO Pathfinder spacecraft|
|2016||Completion of six-satellite operational CICERO constellation|
||Completion of 12-satellite operational CICERO constellation|
||Completion of 24-satellite operational CICERO constellation|