Mar 30, 2021 - Science

Space as a (weather) service

Photo of earth from the perspective of outer space
Photo: NASA

The private weather company ClimaCell has raised more than $185 million in part to help finance its ambitions to build a fleet of satellites designed to monitor and forecast the weather.

Why it matters: The company — which announced a $77 million Series D capital raise today — is aiming to do something different than most space-faring weather firms. Instead of gathering data to sell it to others, it plans to use it to improve its own analytical offerings.

  • The company, which also said it's changing its name to Tomorrow.io, already helps forecast weather's impact on business decisions for airlines like JetBlue and the maritime shipping industry.

What's happening: The satellites will use a proprietary radar instrument designed to beam back data that will aid in forecasts and weather models.

  • The company plans to launch about 40 satellites for its constellation, with the first launch expected in 2022.
  • "The world has one active radar in space. It is the NASA GPM. The moment we launch the first satellite, [we'll double] the number of active radars in space," Shimon Elkabetz, the CEO and co-founder of Tomorrow.io, told us.
  • "The value for weather forecasting that will be generated from our active radars is going to be ... felt in the forecast, starting with the first satellite."

Yes, but: Other weather firms putting satellites in orbit, such as Spire and GeoOptics, are focusing on more established instruments, rather than orbiting radars.

  • Tomorrow.io's technology is largely unproven when it comes to being mounted on small satellites, and the company has yet to launch a single payload.
  • However, if the company succeeds, it could significantly boost the areas of the globe with radar coverage, thereby improving forecasts dramatically.
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