Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program

Learn About and Access
Acquired Data

Program Overview

The Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program (CSDAP) was established to identify, evaluate, and acquire data from commercial sources that support NASA's Earth science research and application activities directly related to or leading to Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) focused on the atmosphere, cryosphere, land, and ocean, as defined by the Global Climate Observing System. NASA's Earth Science Division recognizes the potential impact commercial small-satellite (smallsat) constellations may have in encouraging/enabling efficient approaches to advancing Earth System Science and applications development for societal benefit.

Commercially acquired data may also provide a cost-effective means to augment and/or complement the suite of Earth observations acquired by NASA and other U.S. government agencies and those by international partners and agencies. Going forward, NASA will provide NASA-funded researchers data from its own Earth observing missions, in addition to data from commercial small satellite vendors. NASA will maintain new and archived data from vendors requested and delivered through the CSDAP. These data are made available through the Smallsat Data Explorer ( SDX).

Strategic Objectives

The objectives of the program are to:

  • Establish continuous and repeatable processes to onramp new commercial data vendors and evaluate data for its potential to advance NASA's Earth science research and applications activities.
  • Enable the sustained use of purchased data for broader use and dissemination by NASA scientific community.
  • Ensure long-term data preservation through the establishment of data management processes and systems to support rapid evaluation, access and distribution of purchased data, and long-term access to purchased data for scientific reproducibility.
  • Coordinate evaluation and scientific use with the European Space Agency (ESA)

Pilot Phase

In 2017, NASA initiated a program called the Private-Sector Small Constellation Satellite Data Product Pilot Project to evaluate how observations derived from Earth-orbiting, small-satellite constellations can provide a cost-effective means to augment observations from the agency's fleet of orbiting Earth science missions.

Under the pilot program, NASA awarded contracts to three companies (Planet Labs, Inc., Maxar (formerly DigitalGlobe Inc.), and Spire Global, Inc.) that met the criteria within the public request for information (RFI). Data from selected vendors was evaluated by 41 principal investigators (PIs) selected through the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES) solicitation.

Acquired Data

The scientific community may use data that is acquired by NASA for scientific purposes in adherence to vendor-specific terms and conditions. Currently, data acquired during the evaluations of Planet, Maxar (formerly DigitalGlobe), and Spire Global are available, as are data from the Teledyne Brown Engineering DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer (DESIS). These products are available at no cost to PIs and are subject to scientific use licenses. Information about these vendors and data is available on the Acquired Commercial Smallsat Datasets page.

As additional data are acquired, updates will be provided as amendments to ROSES solicitations to ensure access and use of the purchased data by the broader community.

A web-based tool, the Smallsat Data Explorer (SDX), has been developed to allow PIs to search, discover, and access Commercial Small Satellite (or SmallSat) data that has been acquired by NASA.

Screenshot of the Commercial Small Sat Data Explorer tool.

Going Forward

As the capabilities of commercial satellite vendors grow, NASA's Earth Sciences Division will continuously monitor the development of these companies and acquire relevant data to complement NASA's Earth observation data.

Data that is favorably evaluated and deemed of sufficient value will be purchased by NASA for broad use. Contract types will be selected on a vendor-by-vendor basis that are best suited to provide long-term access to data.

All data purchased by NASA will be made available to NASA-funded researchers with the standard scientific use license.

Onramp and Evaluation

With the transition from pilot to ongoing data acquisition activities, ESDS has established a process for identifying vendors and evaluating data.

Request for Information

Every 12–18 months a request for information (RFI) will be issued with the goal of identifying data that is potentially valuable for NASA's Earth science research and application activities. Vendors that meet the minimum qualifications of the RFI will be asked to submit an RFP so NASA can enter into a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) to evaluate data over a 12– to 18–month period. All RFIs, RFPs, and BPAs will contain a standardized scientific use license to minimize the effort by NASA and confusion by users on how data can be used.

Evaluation

Data from selected vendors will be evaluated by teams of principal investigators (PIs) selected through the annual ROSES solicitation. For each vendor being evaluated, there will be one evaluation team selected. Teams will be composed of a team leader and multiple PIs. Cooperative agreements will be used to fund the team leader and PIs.

The selected PIs will be required to submit a final report as part of the evaluation and the team leader will be responsible for summarizing the reported results. The summary report is not intended to be a consensus recommendation, but a document that takes into account the results of all team member evaluations.

NASA will use the summary report, individual PI reports, and other information to determine the suitability of data from each vendor for future procurements. The summary report will be made available on the CSDAP web page.

All data purchased during the evaluation phase will be preserved for long term data use by NASA for future use in accordance with the scientific use license.

Program Activities

The NASA Earth Science Division presented a Town Hall at AGU (PDF), Tuesday, December 10, and a Side Panel Discussion at AMS, Monday, January 13 to provide a status update on the pilot activity, answer questions about data access and on-ramps for other constellation owners, and answer questions from the community.

Page Last Updated: Jan 27, 2020 at 12:26 PM EST