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Boston startup launches first commercial weather radar satellite plans an eventual constellation of more than 20 spacecraft

A SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket right at Vandenberg Space Force Base carries a weather radar satellite for Boston startup

Boston startup successfully launched its first weather radar satellite last month, marking a new achievement for the commercial space industry. The satellite is the first of its kind and is intended to be the start of a constellation of radar-equipped spacecraft, helping to improve forecasting of killer storms and increase the accuracy of climate models.

Prior weather satellites equipped with radar, used to see through clouds and measure precipitation, have been owned by governments or research groups.

The first-ever commercial weather radar satellite, dubbed “Pathfinder,” went up on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on April 14 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and has been responding to communications and sending back radar data for several weeks, John Springmann, vice president of space and sensors at the company, told the Globe. The washing machine-sized satellite is orbiting at an altitude of about 300 miles.


“As novel as this is, it is working as we expected,” Springmann said. “No surprises — it’s going well.”, originally named ClimaCell, already provides highly detailed weather forecasts using data from ground reports for customers including JetBlue, National Grid, and the New England Patriots. It first announced the planned expansion into space two years ago.

Later this year, will launch a second, similar satellite. If the two spacecraft prove the concept works, the company plans to launch the bulk of an eventual constellation of more than 20 satellites with active radar and passive microwave gear in 2024 and early 2025. Radar allows accurate measurement of rain and snow beyond the capabilities of traditional imaging weather satellites.

Current weather radar is primarily provided by ground stations. Though the United States has a comprehensive ground network, less wealthy countries have spotty coverage and the oceans lack coverage except by a NASA satellite that provides infrequent passes. Once in operation,’s constellation aims to provide radar coverage of the entire globe every hour.


The weather-tech startup abandoned plans to merge with a blank-check company last year, a deal that could have raised more than $400 million and given the company a publicly listed stock. That may have been for the best — many other companies that went public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, have run into trouble. For example, Boston-based wireless Internet firm Starry Group Holdings filed for bankruptcy in February, less than a year after its SPAC merger.

Still, has continued to grow and move forward with its satellite plan without the SPAC backing. It currently employs about 200 people split between Boston, Tel Aviv, and remote locations.

The successful launch of the first satellite could help the company raise further backing, venture capitalist Ethan Batraski said. Batraski, a partner at Venrock, has invested in some space startups, but not

“For any upstart commercial space company, launching a spacecraft successfully into orbit and operations is the single most important de-risking milestone for its future success and growth,” Batraski said. The success, he added, helps convince supporters “to continue investing and funding future spacecraft.”

Aaron Pressman can be reached at Follow him @ampressman.