PlanetiQ: Unrivaled weather data for better living

Someday relatively soon, you’ll know with more certainty if the sunny weather that’s luring you to wash your car or go camping will hold.

Or maybe, before you even pack your travel bag, you’ll receive notice that your flight is weather-delayed. 

All thanks to Boulder’s new aerospace company, PlanetiQ.

If PlanetiQ succeeds, these types of predictions may be possible thanks to ‘unrivaled weather data’ gathered by 12 new microsatellites currently being engineered and built in Boulder. Over the next two years, PlanetiQ, with offices also in Bethesda, MD, plans to launch these microsatellites into space.

Founded in 2012, PlanetiQ aims to fill the gap caused by the aging constellation of U.S. satellites by providing smaller, satellites that gather new information at a fraction of the cost.

The company recently selected Boulder’s Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT) to build the revolutionary weather satellites. PlanetiQ’s new Boulder offices are co-located at BCT’s facility, where PlanetiQ will hire one to two dozen more scientists and engineers, sealing Boulder’s front-row view of mission central.

The next BIG thing in space is little

Since coming on board, BCT has dramatically reduced satellite size and weight without sacrificing instrument capabilities.

But the meat of this mission is in the science of physics and PlanetiQ’s tiny but power-packed sensor endearingly called Pyxis, which travels on board the microsatellites.

Pyxis tracks how signals bend in relationship to global temperature, pressure and water vapor using a technique called GPS Radio Occultation (GPS-RO).

PlanetiQ and Blue Canyon Technologies Partner to Transform Weather Satellite Industry and Dramatically Improve Weather Forecasting (photo courtesy PlanetiQ)

PlanetiQ and Blue Canyon Technologies Partner to Dramatically Improve Weather Forecasting (photo courtesy PlanetiQ)

Less than 1.5 kilograms and 10 centimeters, Pyxis is the only GPS-RO sensor in such a small package and provides a huge quantity of GPS-RO data.

The tiny sensor will routinely probe the lowest layers of the atmosphere where severe weather occurs.

“With 12 satellites providing eight million data points per day, GPS-RO will easily become the most important contributor to weather forecast accuracy at a fraction of the cost of traditional weather satellites,” PlanetiQ Founder Chris McCormick said in a press release.

The practical benefits of GPS-RO

According to PlanetiQ, clouds and storms often obscure weather observing technologies, but GPS-RO can “see” through these, providing a high degree of accuracy. With better weather forecasts:

  • Decisions can be made more readily to save lives, money and infrastructure,
  • Natural disasters can be predicted more accurately, and
  • More accurate day-to-day weather predictions can save individuals time and stress.

The next frontier

PlanetiQ’s microsatellites are on the forefront of what PlanetiQ President and CEO Anne Hale Miglarese’s calls in a press release the “next commercial space frontier.” She says the demand is growing for better forecasts of day-to-day weather and severe storms, and for solutions that “enhance weather readiness.”

Intertwined with the aerospace roots of Boulder, PlanetiQ’s story seems poised for stratospheric success. Following are some key highlights.

  •  PlanetiQ chose BCT as a partner based on BCT’s development track record and its cutting-edge, low-cost design approach that has delivered hundreds of components and systems for numerous space missions. BCT was founded in 2008.
  • The U.S. fleet of weather satellites is aging, according to a Popular Science article in March 2013.

This month the Boulder Source features technology and science enterprises in the Boulder area. Read more about this month’s Featured Friend, National Center for Women in Technology Breaking the masculine mystique.


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