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Mitsubishi Electric, L3Harris win weather satellite contracts

15 Mar 2023

Technology firm to build 'Himawari-10' geostationary craft for the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has awarded a contract to build its newest geostationary weather satellite - featuring a hyperspectral sounder - to Mitsubishi Electric.

Known as “Himawari-10”, the satellite will become the fourth in succession to be constructed by the Japanese technology giant since "Himawari-7", and will feature imaging and sounding instruments provided by US defense contractor L3Harris.

“Himawari-10 will be equipped with a visible infrared imager and a hyperspectral infrared sounder, both built by L3Harris Technologies of the US, and a space environment sensor from the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology of Japan (NICT),” announced Mitsubishi Electric.

“The imager, which offers observation wavelength bands and resolutions superior to those of the Himawari-8 and 9, will gather two-dimensional information about cloud and water-vapor distribution, and land, sea and cloud temperatures based on frequent measurement of visible to infrared rays emitted from the earth’s surface.”

Vertical resolution
L3Harris’ cross-track infrared sounder (CrIS) instrument is able to observe more than 2000 wavelength channels across the infrared spectrum, providing moisture and temperature information with much more detailed vertical resolution compared with earlier equipment.

A Fourier transform spectrometer, CrIS provides atmospheric soundings with 2211 spectral channels over three wavelength ranges: LWIR (9.14-15.38μm), MWIR (5.71-8.26μm) and SWIR (3.92- 4.64 μm), explains the firm on its web site.

CrIS also has an 8-centimeter clear aperture and uses plane mirror interferometer technology to scan a 2200-km swath width, with an 8-second repeat interval.

In November 2022, the hyperspectral sounder was launched aboard the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System-2 weather satellite.

“This technology improves NOAA’s prediction of hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme weather events and the accuracy of weather models three-to-seven days in advance by providing more precise temperature and water vapor information,” said the firm at the time.

$765M NASA contract
Coincidentally, L3Harris has also just been awarded a contract to build a next-generation geostationary weather imager for the NOAA, with enhanced capabilities to assist in forecasting severe weather and environmental events .

Valued at $765 million, the contract with NASA is for the NOAA’s Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) satellite system. It should significantly improve the accuracy and timeliness of weather forecasting in the Western Hemisphere when it launches, around a decade from now.

“The addition of two new spectral bands and enhanced spatial resolution will improve space-based severe weather monitoring as well as short-term weather predictions and wildfire tracking,” L3Harris said.

Slated to begin launching in 2032, the GeoXO mission will provide the mainstay of NOAA’s geostationary observation through 2055.

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