As Earth Observation Data Grows, So Does Public Access

7 August 2014, 1:30 p.m. EDT
by Lawrence Garrett, AIAA web editor

Implementation_of_Programs_Providing_Space-Based-_Remote_Sensing_Observations_and_Data_6Aug14

Participants in the panel discussion, "Implementation of Programs Providing Space-Based Remote Sensing Observations and Data," Wednesday afternoon at the AIAA Space and Astronautics Forum and Exposition (SPACE 2014), in San Diego.

The next generation of satellites will enhance space-based remote-sensing observations and, coupled with public access to their data, support a host of global weather, space weather and climate products, a panel of government and private industry experts told an audience Wednesday at the AIAA SPACE 2014 Forum in San Diego.

“It’s a great time for looking at our planet,” said Jack Kaye, associate director for research at NASA's Earth Science Division, noting that the massive amount of data collected by NASA's earth observation constellation is now publicly available.

Phil Ardanuy, principal engineering fellow and weather/environmental solution architect at Raytheon, reiterated Kaye’s enthusiasm for the rapid advances in remote sensing and observation technology, as well as the open access to the technology’s data. "This is an exciting time for NASA research satellites, NOAA operational satellites and foreign partner satellites,” he said. “We’re finding applications and uses that were never envisioned before.” As a result, he said, it is becoming a challenge to meet the growing demand for all of those satellite-provided measurements and other data.

NASA and its international sister agencies have demonstrated that research instruments are as useful for applications as they are for research, he said. “We need to recognize that these instruments in the future must always serve dual purposes – not just science and not just applications, but the two together,” he said. “Determining the requirements is fundamentally important. That’s the foundation.”

Skybox Imaging, an information and analytics company monitoring daily global activity, “just now scratching the surface” of what will be “a vast array of commercial, civil, environmental, and humanitarian applications,” said Andrew Hock, the company's senior director of advanced technology programs. While Skybox only has two satellites in orbit to date, its ultimate vision, according to Hock, is to “darken the skies with these capable sensors to enable frequent monitoring of high-interest activity centers around the world.” Hock stressed that the satellites are intended “to be complementary to the existing, exquisite mapping sensors,” operated by the company's commercial partners, “as well as civil sensors with tremendous track records, such as Landsat and GOES.”

Discussing NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System, or EOSDIS – one of the largest publicly available earth science archives in the world – was Kevin Murphy, EOSDIS system architect at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Addressing the challenge of “big data,” he touched on some of NASA’s new solutions, such as the Global Imagery Browse Services, or GIBS, which provides access to full-resolution imagery derived from NASA products to any web-connected client. “We envision GIBS as kind of that layer that allows you to interact directly with these data products – that have been kind of approved by the science creators of the products – and then being able to use those in addition to data services to allow people to do analytics,” he said. NASA has also opened up its archives to a “whole group of people [who] were traditionally unable to work with these volumes of data,” he said. As a result, “people have been able to use these services, like PBS and the EPA, to integrate NASA observations into their workflows.”

To view the entire session, visit AIAA's livestream channel.
Back to Headlines from SPACE 2014.