The U.S. Space Force’s CubeSat Weather-Imaging Mission Takes Flight Again To Transform Space Technology

June 18, 2024

In March 2024, the U.S. Space Force launched the Electro-Optical/Infrared Weather Systems demonstration mission. This initiative involves deploying 110 small satellites, known as CubeSats, into low Earth orbit to furnish critical weather data essential for various U.S. military operations. Developed by Orion Space Solutions, the EWS CubeSat addresses the impending gap in weather coverage due to the aging Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites, which are projected to be out of service by 2026.

This mission follows a similar, albeit unsuccessful, attempt last year when the CubeSat satellite failed to separate from its launch vehicle. The Space Force is aiming for a successful demonstration that will provide valuable insights into refining future strategies and practices for collecting weather-related data.

How CubeSats Are Transforming Space Technology For Military Operations

CubeSats are miniature, cube-shaped satellites, often smaller than a shoebox. Despite their size, they have revolutionized space technology by boasting advanced electro-optical sensors capable of capturing detailed cloud imagery. This capability is crucial for military operations where accurate weather data plays a vital role. Deploying CubeSats like the EWS contributes to a distributed architecture in space, enabling comprehensive weather monitoring with improved scalability and cost-effectiveness.

Compared to traditional weather satellites, CubeSats offer several advantages. Their smaller size and reduced cost allow for rapid development and deployment—with potential to reach orbit within months versus the years needed for larger spacecraft. The EWS CubeSat’s mission aims to demonstrate their reliability and resilience amongst competitors, operating in a low-altitude polar orbit to capture essential cloud cover imagery for global weather forecasting. This ensures preparedness for environmental challenges faced by the U.S. military and its allies. And with senior Space Force officials questioning “both the ‘military utility’ and the cost-effectiveness of refueling large satellites stationed in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO),” the usage of smaller, inexpensive crafts are becoming more advantageous.

Importance of Satellite Weather Data to the Department of Defense

Weather data is incorporated into many aspects of the Department of Defense’s operations. Data like cloud cover, precipitation, temperature, and moisture in the atmosphere is collected and analyzed for security and informational purposes, as it informs operational planning and significantly affects military activities in the air, on land, or at sea. Accurate data helps plan flight routes, search and rescue missions, and maritime operations. Second, weather data ensures safety and readiness, providing early warnings for hazards like fog, thunderstorms, and cyclones, which can endanger personnel and equipment.

Understanding weather patterns provides a strategic advantage, allowing forces to exploit favorable conditions while potentially creating disadvantages for adversaries. Beyond terrestrial operations, weather satellites contribute to space and cyber operations by measuring critical space weather parameters. Global coverage, especially over data-sparse regions, ensures preparedness for environmental challenges worldwide.

Beyond immediate needs, long-term weather data collection informs climate patterns and trends, aiding in predictive analysis for future environmental conditions. Reliable weather imaging data is a strategic asset that underpins safety, readiness, and operational success across diverse domains within the defense sector and beyond.

Advancing Space Technology with Capitol Tech

Capitol Technology University’s Aviation and Astronautical Sciences programs prepare students through hands-on learning with CubeSats, ground station satellites, BalloonSat payloads, and training within our Space Flight Operations Training Center and ALPHA Observatory. Students learn how to innovate new space technologies that can inform government and private sector operations, contributing to the future of this industry. To learn more, contact our Admissions team at or request more information today!