U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command said that it launched a Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Weather Systems (EWS) technical demonstration cube satellite by Colorado’s Orion Space Solutions aboard the SpaceX Transporter-6 mission on Jan. 3 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

“This one-year EWS cubesat technical demonstration will prove out emerging space-based EO/IR radiometric imaging technology, using a smaller sensor to provide timely weather imagery data from low Earth orbit (LEO),” SSC said.

EWS is to replace four Lockheed Martin [LMT] Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites to provide military forces with global terrestrial cloud forecasts and theater weather imagery data. DMSP launches began in 1962, and the satellites are expected to retire by 2025 when EWS is to come online.

In February last year, SSC picked Orion Space Solutions–formerly Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Asssociates (ASTRA)–and General Atomics‘ Electromagnetic Systems Group (GA-EMS) for two technical demonstrations. General Atomics is to deliver its prototype for the second technical demonstration by 2025.

The Jan. 3 launch of the Orion Space Solutions’ EWS cube satellite fulfills the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act “mandate to launch a weather EO/IR pathfinder prototype by FY23.”

“The program expects the first transmittal of data early in the new year,” SSC said.

In November, 2021, General Atomics said that Space Force had chosen to make the General Atomics’ design for the EWS satellite a three- to five-year prototype effort–an expansion of a one-year on-orbit demonstration (Defense Daily, Nov. 29, 2021).

In June 2020, Space Force awarded $309 million to Raytheon Technologies [RTX]; a GA-EMS team; and an ASTRA team for EWS under the Space Enterprise Consortium. In February last year, Space Force did not choose Raytheon for the EWS cube satellite technical demonstration.