NASA Expands Earth Observation Satellite Data Access for Federal Science Agencies

This Copernicus Sentinel-3 image features Hurricane Dorian as it pummels the Bahamas on 2 September 2019 at 15:16 GMT (11:16 EDT). (Credit: ESA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has expanded its contract with two space-based imagery companies, Planet and Spire Global, to broaden access to Earth imagery data and enable scientific research across the federal government. Broader access to this satellite data will help answer questions about how Earth is changing and how those changes may impact people and communities.

Since 2020, NASA has contracted Planet to provide its employees, grantees and contractors with data for scientific research. The new modification provides access to PlanetScope and RapidEye satellite constellations for U.S. federal civil science agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation, and their funded researchers, through NASA’s commercial datasets webpage.

NASA also expanded its contract with Spire Global to continue its participation in the agency’s Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition (CSDA) program. Under the contract continuation, Spire will deliver a comprehensive catalog of data from its Earth-orbiting small-satellite constellation. These data will be archived and maintained by NASA as part of CSDA’s Smallsat Data Explorer (SDX) tool and will be available for scientific purposes at no cost to all U.S. federal agencies, NASA-funded researchers, and all U.S. government-funded researchers.

“The U.S. has a vibrant, capable, and innovate private sector in Earth observation. NASA established our Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program to identify, evaluate and purchase data and imagery from commercial sources that can enhance NASA’s Earth science research and applications,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. “We know that science advances faster and with greater trust when data, analysis, and results are broadly available to the science community. The contracts with Planet and Spire Global are an important step in getting more Earth observation data quickly into the hands of the scientists who help answer the most pressing questions about our home planet.” 

With more than two dozen satellites and instruments observing key climate indicators and how the planet is changing, NASA is the premier U.S. agency for observing and understanding changes to Earth. Commercially acquired data also provides a cost-effective means to complement the suite of Earth observations acquired by NASA and other U.S. government agencies and those by international partners and agencies.

NASA scientists have previously applied commercial small satellite, or smallsat, data to improve Earth science research. In 2019, researchers used Planet data to better understand the carbon cycle that drives our climate by mapping land surface characteristics in the Boreal region. NASA scientists also used Planet data to monitor Greenland’s ice melt during the 2019 melt season. The access enhanced their understanding of the changes happening on the ice sheet that may have global impact.

NASA satellites have also investigated the utility data from Spire, which measure signals from Global Navigation Satellite Systems that interact with Earth’s surface and atmosphere.  NASA researchers have investigated using these signals to measure the height of ocean and ice surfaces.  They have also investigated how these data can improve forecasts of the Earth system using NASA’s atmospheric modeling capabilities.

Through NASA’s Commercial SmallSat Data Acquisition Program, the Planet contract is awarded until Sept. 21, 2021, with options to extend through Sept. 2023. The Spire contract is awarded until May 2022, with options to extend through Sept. 2023.

For more information about NASA’s Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program, visit: https://earthdata.nasa.gov/esds/csdap.

To learn more about NASA’s Earth science division, visit:  https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/index.html.