By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A Colorado-based startup developing a satellite network to predict weather using radio signals will launch its first two spacecraft on an Indian rocket, the company said on Thursday.
Privately owned PlanetiQ signed a contract with Antrix Corp Limited, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization, to launch the pair of satellites in late 2016.
p> Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
PlanetiQ plans to build & operate a constellation of 12 miniature satellites that monitor GPS & other navigational radio signals passing through Earthâ€™s atmosphere.
The signals alter as they travel through different temperatures, pressures & levels of humidity, & the data can be incorporated into computer programs that predict local & regional weather & monitor changes in the global climate.
PlanetiQ is among a handful of companies looking to exploit a growing demand for weather data for commercial & government use. With the 12 satellites in orbit, PlanetiQÂ expects to measure the atmosphere approximately 34,000 times a day worldwide at altitudes between 650 feet (200 meters) above ground all the way into the ionosphere.
In Â 2013, agrochemical company Monsanto paid nearly $1 billion for the Climate Corporation, which produces apps of field-level weather, soil & crop data.
Planet iQ's satellites will be positioned approximately 497 miles (800 km) above the planet & inclined approximately 98 degrees relative north & south of the equator. From that vantage point, PlanetiQ satellites will track radio signals from the U.S. Global Positioning System, Russiaâ€™s Glasnoss, Chinaâ€™s BeiDou & Europeâ€™s Galileo satellites as they pass through the atmosphere.
â€œThe data is similar to that collected by weather balloons, yet more accurate, more frequent & on a global scale,â€ PlanetiQ said. The remaining 10 satellites are expected to fly in 2017.
â€œWe are considering all secondary launch opportunities, though (we) are looking at only polar orbits now with higher altitudes preferred,â€ PlanetiQ Chief Executive Chris McCormick wrote in an email to Reuters.
GeoOptics & Spire are two other startups planning to build & operate fleets of low-orbiting satellites equipped with so-called GPS radio occultation sensors. Tempus Global Data & HySpecIQ intend to fly a different type technology, called hyperspectral imaging, to collect similar atmospheric data.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz)