Nanosatellites Can Help Measure the Weather
Our GOMX-3 satellite was used as a technology demonstrator by the European Space Agency (ESA) to gather weather information. Using technology not tested in this way before, scientists from the Met Office were able to use this satellite to gather wind and temperature observations over a large part of the globe.
The data was collected from messages sent routinely from aircrafts back to Air Traffic Control. This experiment has proven that by exploiting existing technology in new ways it is possible to obtain weather data for locations which may be data sparse. In the future, this data could be fed into numerical weather models to help improve the accuracy of weather forecasts.
The ESA technology demonstrator, GOMX-3, was designed to collect Automatic Data Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) messages to track aircraft from space using a nanosatellite. Collaboratively GomSpace, ESA and the Met Office agreed on an extended mission which would involve reprogramming GOMX-3 whilst it was in orbit around the Earth to collect additional parameters required to calculate wind and temperature observations. These are called Mode-S Enhanced Surveillance (EHS) parameters. The reprogramming was successful and data was collected for two weeks over a large part of the globe. The locations of all of these derived observations are shown below as the red dots. The blue lines show the track of the satellite during this period.
"We learned about the possibility that the GOMX-3 satellite could be re-programmed to receive MODE-S data only a few months prior to the planned re-entry date, so time was critical. The project with ESA and GomSpace came together remarkably smoothly and quickly; from the first contact with ESA and GomSpace on 20th April 2016, right through to the start of the data delivery from the satellite on 17th August 2016. The analysis of the data have been shown at major international conferences and are helping to inform our strategy on global meteorological observing systems."
- Research Fellow from the Met Office, Malcolm Kitchen