Ball Aerospace to Build WSF-M Satellite for USAF

The U.S. Air Force has exercised a $255.4 million option to a contract with Ball Aerospace to develop and fabricate the Weather System Follow-on Microwave Space Vehicle 1 (WSF-M 1).

weather satellite
Artist’s rendition of WSF-M. Source: Ball Aerospace

The option modifies a $93.7 million firm-fixed-price contract awarded in November 2017 to conduct system design and risk reduction on the WSF-M satellite. The total value of the contract is now at $349.1 million. There are also options for a second satellite, as well as options for launch vehicle integration, launch and early orbit test, and operational test and evaluation support. So the total value will likely be higher by the time all work has been completed.

The WSF-M is a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite with a passive microwave imaging radiometer instrument and hosted government furnished energetic charged particles sensor.

The U.S. Air Force’s effort to develop new weather satellites finally appears to be emerging from years of difficulty. Following the cancellation of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), the Air Force pursued development of a new weather satellite under the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS) program. However, when that program faced funding problems and delays, the Air Force terminated it in favor of the WSF program.

However, the risk reduction contract was finally signed in 2017, and now a production contract has been signed. The Air Force expects the work to be completed by early 2023, and a launch will take place shortly after production has been completed.

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