tech track papers

Categories: 2017, Earth Weather and Forecasting

NOAA’s Commercial Weather Data Pilot Project

NOAA’s Commercial Space Policy (January 2016) directs its Divisions to “…pursue demonstration projects to validate the viability of assimilating commercially provided environmental data and data products into NOAA meteorological models and add value to the forecast.”

In 2016, NOAA initiated a Commercial Weather Data Pilot (CWDP), soliciting commercial industry to supply Global Navigation Satellite System Radio Occultation (RO) data, for evaluation of the data as well as NOAA’s ability to create a repeatable process in which to conduct such evaluations.

RO was chosen as a suitable commercially-sourced atmospheric data set because the data has been shown to improve the accuracy of regional weather forecasts worldwide, especially over the oceans and over land masses surrounded by ocean, where traditional data sources are sparse in coverage. Furthermore, the instruments required are small and relatively low-cost, and use proven techniques.

NOAA is not funding the development of commercial RO satellites, nor guaranteeing to be a sole-source customer of this data. Instead, NOAA is taking advantage of existing, independent development of RO data gathering capability by the commercial sector.

For the 2016 CWDP, two contracts were awarded in September 2016, to Spire Global Inc. of San Francisco, CA and GeoOptics of Pasadena, CA. Both companies have advanced GPS RO receivers under development, with plans to launch constellations of CubeSats to provide global RO data sets to NOAA and their other customers.

This paper will report on the progress and results to date of the CWDP Project, sharing lessons learned and experiences which can guide future NOAA and other government agencies in conducting commercial data acquisition and evaluation projects.


Author: Karen St. Germain
Topic: Earth Weather and Forecasting