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COWVR (Compact Ocean Wind Vector Radiometer ) is a small satellite build jointly by the US Air Force and ORS (Operationally Responsive Space), later Air Force’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office (Space RCO), program to provide ocean surface vector wind data.

The COWVR payload being developed by the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) for the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) Weather Directorate which would address the need for ocean surface vector wind data, which currently comes from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s Windsat payload on the Coriolis (P98-2) satellite, which launched in 2003 and is well beyond its expected design life.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built COWVR’s sensor, which improves upon the design of the Advanced Microwave Radiometer flown on the U.S./European Jason-2 and Jason-3 satellites.

The satellite consists of a bus called Modular Space Vehicle (MSV), that employs a Modular Open System Architecture, using Plug-n-Play technology to allow for rapid manufacturing, integration and testing, and a radar surveillance payload.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems of Redondo Beach, Calif., is the prime contractor for MSV.

The bus was built for the ORS 2 experimental radar satellite, which was planned for a launch in 2015, but was at the time not fully funded. Funds were available for the mission are sufficient to complete the MSV satellite bus, which was delivered in 2014, and to test it with the payload. It has since been put into storage and the MSV bus is planned to be launched with another payload. The MSV bus will be slightly modified and fitted with the COWVR Compact Ocean Wind Vector Radiometer instead of the radar payload. The solar arrays and the payload mounting will be modified for the new mission.

The satellite was to fly in 2018 on a shared multi-satellite launch on a Falcon-9 v1.2 (Block 5) rocket. In May 2018, the plan to launch the satellite was cancelled due to unspecified technical issues with the spacecraft’s bus. Space RCO will now demonstrate COWVR on the STP-H8 payload attached to the International Space Station (ISS).

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Meteorology, Experimental
Operator: US Air Force (USAF)
Contractors: Northrop Grumman Space Systems (bus); NASA JPL (payload)
Equipment: COWVR sensor
Configuration: MSV
Propulsion: None
Power: Solar arrays, batteries
Lifetime: 1 - 2 years
Mass: ~300 kg
Orbit: 600 km × 600 km, 97.5º
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
ORS 6 (COWVR) - 2018 with ? / cancelled

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