Utah State University’s Office of Commercial Enterprises announced April 3 that Forrest Fackrell, executive director of Business Development at USU’s Office of Commercialization will leave his current post to join USTAR-supported satellite company GeoMetWatch. Fackrell joins GeoMetWatch as Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer on April 1st and will be responsible for establishing company presence in Utah and for the development and implementation of the company’s growth strategy in the state. GeoMetWatch is a privately held company focused on the commercial development of technology to advance severe weather forecast capability and environmental observation systems. The company’s products and services are to be available globally under an innovative fee-for-service data-buy model that enables its clients to meet their critical atmospheric data needs with optimum efficiency and affordability.

“Forrest has been a leader in Utah State University’s commercialization efforts and I cannot think of a better fit for all parties than for Forrest to help bring commercial weather data to government and commercial agencies worldwide,” said Robert Behunin, vice president for Commercialization and Regional Development at USU.“The technology that will be flying on commercially hosted satellites, and developed at the Space Dynamics Laboratory, will revolutionize how forecasters receive critical weather data in the future – enabling them to better predict the path of dangerous hurricanes, provide advanced warning of tornadoes, give emergency planners more accurate weather data and transmit other severe weather activity to those who want it.”

USTAR provided funding for much of the initial design and trade study efforts undertaken to establish details associated with final instrument design and pricing requirements. Additionally, these funds were used to provide valuable market research and customer engagement activities necessary for project evaluation and progress.

In 2010, GeoMetWatch contracted with the USU Research Foundations’ Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) to perform trade studies in preparation for building the Sounding & Tracking Observatory for Regional Meteorology (STORM) instrument that will be the first in a series of the GeoMetWatch constellation of satellites. The STORM instrument will be based on the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer (GIFTS) instrument built by SDL. GIFTS was successfully tested and calibrated as an engineering demonstration unit to ground-validate technologies critical to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hyperspectral Environmental Suite program for the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system.

GeoMetWatch received a license in late 2010 from the US Department of Commerce for the nation’s first commercial hyperspectral imaging/sounding system. This license permits GeoMetWatch to operate six geosynchronous satellites equipped with advanced hyperspectral weather sensors. The first STORM sensor built by SDL is scheduled to deliver to GeoMetWatch in 2016, and launched in 2016. This instrument will demonstrate the capabilities of the overall program through observation of high spectral resolution atmospheric radiances to produce temperature and water vapor atmospheric profiles, clear air wind profiles, and some trace gas concentration profiles, such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. These observations are essential for improving severe weather forecasting for the National Weather Service and can provide important data products for a Weather Ready Nation in areas of Warn on Forecast, NextGen FAA 4-D Weather Cube, improved water and alternative energy resource management as well as transportation safety and cost savings.

“Forrest has the perfect combination of experience and drive to help propel USTAR-supported GeoMetWatch to reality,” said Gene Pache, President and COO of GeoMetWatch.“GeoMetWatch will be an economic force in the State of Utah, and Forrest’s knowledge of the satellite industry working with the USU Research Foundation’s Space Dynamics Laboratory, coupled with his expertise in business development and entrepreneurial background will be a great asset to GeoMetWatch, USU and this great state.”

“We are pleased with Forrest’s decision to join our company and are very appreciative of his efforts thus far in assisting this important endeavor,” said Dr. David Crain, CEO of GeoMetWatch. “With an official full-time presence now in the state of Utah, a state rich in aerospace history and incredible talent and success, we are hopeful that Utah will enjoy an even bigger role in this project and truly become the place the whole world turns to for advanced and accurate severe weather information.”

“The STORM project–which Forrest has cultivated and grown as part of his business development efforts–when fully realized, will bring millions of dollars for sensor work to Space Dynamics Laboratory. It will be the single largest program in USTAR’s technology commercialization portfolio,” says Behunin.

“Forrest leaves Utah State University Research Foundation with a legacy that will be long remembered,” says USURF President Douglas K. Lemon. “Forrest’s innovative approaches to business operations, business development and commercialization have made USURF stronger and more competitive, and we will certainly continue to work with and rely on Forrest’s unique abilities as the GeoMetWatch STORM sensor project moves forward.”

Thanks to USU’s Commercialization Enterprises office for sharing this story.

Utah State University Commercial Enterprises works closely with academic and industry partners to develop new technologies by “spinning in” business innovation opportunities. Commercial Enterprises is committed to protecting USU’s intellectual property and developing relevant, practical technologies with industry. The unification of the commercial efforts at Utah State University and emphasis on research and commercialization outreach expands USU’s land-grant profile and mission for the economic good of the state. With USU regional campuses or extension offices in 28 of Utah’s 29 counties, Commercial Enterprises collaborates with industry networks and governments to leverage university resources to expand opportunities for USU and its partners that will lead to economic sustainability, new capital and job creation, increased tax and royalty revenue, and a value-added industrial base. For more information, visit Commercial Enterprises on the web (http://crd.usu.edu).