1. Earth Science Data Systems (ESDS) Program
  2. Small Satellite Commercial Data Buy Program

Small Satellite Commercial Data Buy Program


In the fall of 2018 NASA initiated a year-long program to evaluate how observations derived from Earth-orbiting, small-satellite constellations can be a cost-effective means to augment observations from the agency’s fleet of orbiting Earth science missions. The overall objective of the Private Sector Small Constellation Satellite Data Product Pilot is to identify private sector data vendors and purchase from them Earth science data products that are directly related or lead to Essential Climate Variables (ECVs), as defined by the Global Climate Observing System.

About the Program

Under the Pilot program, NASA awarded contracts to three companies (Planet Labs, Inc.; DigitalGlobe, Inc.; and Spire Global, Inc.) that met criteria within the public Request for Information (RFI), including: non-geostationary orbits; consistent, global coverage; and satellites designed and operated by non-governmental entities. Emphasis is placed on data acquired by constellations of small satellites, complementing data sources from NASA and other government spaceborne observatories and data sources that provide data often having higher spectral and spatial resolution.

These datasets are now being evaluated by a broad set of existing NASA-funded researchers who are examining and analyzing the data to help determine their utility for advancing NASA’s science and applications development goals. In addition to the assessments of the scientific suitability, other evaluation criteria will include data availability (latency), license rights versus cost, and the vendor’s plans for constellation maintenance and evolution.

Requirements for Vendors

Selected data products must be of sufficient quality to allow researchers to generate essential climate variables (ECVs). Furthermore, sufficient information must be provided to allow NASA researchers to understand the instrument calibration and processing techniques that were used to generate the provided data products. It is important for the evaluators that the data products be provided in a standard, well-documented format, including associated metadata (documentation, access routines, and basic characterization information). It is similarly important that the purchased data products and metadata adhere to NASA’s data products preservation specification.

Last Updated: May 2, 2019 at 12:36 PM EDT