Weather Forecasting From Space

Silicon Valley satellites bring us the weather

By Scott Budman
|  Monday, Jan 18, 2010  |  Updated 4:05 PM PDT
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Weather Forecasting From Space

How we get the weather report.

If you're anywhere in the world right now, wondering how this winter got so wet, windy, and cold, we have some answers.

They're rarely pretty, but those colorful forecasts streaming across our TV and computer screens have a lot of technology behind them.  And, like Hebrew National hot dogs,  they answer to a higher authority.

Specifically, satellites made in Silicon Valley by Loral Space Systems.  Located in about the most unassuming buildings you can find in the world's capital of tech, Loral boasts one of the few manufacturing facilities left in these parts.  We got a rare tour of the floor where the satellites are made, and the view from the ground is spectacular.

Here's a peek:

Through the decades, Loral has made a name for itself, building gigantic satellites for the likes of DirecTV, Dish Network, and XM satellite radio, each one costing as much as $300 million. The manufacturing wing is currently filled to capacity, as customers want more satellites -- because their customers want more broadband, satellite TV, and so on. 

When it comes to weather,  Loral works with NASA to construct satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  This is also steady work, and Loral just retired one of its weather satellites after 12 years of service.  As the technology they use improves, the pictures you see on your screen improves along with it.

With a regular stream of customers, serving a public that can't get enough data, Loral has done very well lately, not missing a step during the recession, and, as I mentioned, their manufacturing facility us bursting at the seams.

So, the next time you see a meteorologist telling you what he sees in his or her weather computer, just know that they had to look skyward first.

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