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USU space lab to build parts for weather satellites

Published November 22, 2010 6:02 am

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Logan • Utah State University's Space Dynamics Lab will partner with a private weather observation company to design and build weather-sensing instruments for satellites.

The lab's collaboration with the Las Vegas-based GeoMetWatch will bring about $420 million in contracts to the university, company CEO David Crain said.

Using the university's 50 years of satellite expertise and GeoMetWatch's experience with weather technology and data, the lab will build STORM — the Sounding & Tracking Observatory for Regional Meteorology — one of six satellites to help forecast the path of hurricanes and predict locations for potentially severe weather. The system will give emergency planners more accurate weather data, Crain said.

A key element of the new technology will be enhanced water vapor tracking.

"The improvement in the knowledge of where the water vapor is allows us then to better predict where future storms are going to be," Crain told KSL-TV in Salt Lake City. It will "better predict the amount of water vapor, the amount of precipitable water that's available to fall out of the clouds. We think we'll be able to improve predictions in some cases more than 50 percent."

The first STORM instrument is scheduled to be delivered to GeoMetWatch in early 2014 to be launched later that year.

Crain said GeoMetWatch is also considering building a data center in Utah.

"We already have the technology," Crain said. "The technology that's enabling this venture is at Utah State and if we can bring the data center here, then we can make Utah the capital for weather for the whole world."

Forrest Fackrell, vice president of USU's research foundation, said the project also brings economic development for the university.

"It means an increased revenue base, which creates for us the opportunity to further invest those funds into research and development projects that we're interested in at Utah State," Fackrell said. —

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