NGA using data from Spire and Ball to monitor Arctic maritime traffic

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WASHINGTON — The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is using satellite data provided by Spire Global and Ball Aerospace to monitor maritime traffic in the Arctic, a region where the changing climate is having a dramatic impact on trade routes, Peter Platzer, Spire chief executive, said March 6 during a Satellite 2017 panel here.

Ball Aerospace is combining vessel tracking data from Spire’s automatic identification system payloads with other geospatial intelligence data in Ball’s cloud-based data fusion engine to give NGA a visual representation of the maritime traffic that includes detailed vessel activity profiles.

Debra Facktor Lepore, Ball’s vice president and general manager of strategic operations and commercial aerospace, speaking at Satellite 2017. Credit: Kate Patterson for SpaceNews
Debra Facktor Lepore, Ball’s vice president and general manager of strategic operations and commercial aerospace, speaking at Satellite 2017. Credit: Kate Patterson for SpaceNews

This is the latest indication of U.S. government agencies’ growing interest in using data gathered by small satellite and cubesats sensors to complement the capabilities of large commercial and government-owned spacecraft. Spire and GeoOptics, an environmental data monitoring company in Pasadena, California, also are providing atmospheric temperature and humidity data drawn from radio occultation sensors to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as part of a pilot project to assess the utility of the data.

Weather forecasting provides a good example the value of combining “the large and incredibly capable assets the government has deployed for weather forecasting and the highly agile and numerous assets that we can deploy,” said Debra Facktor Lepore, Ball’s vice president and general manager of strategic operations and commercial aerospace. “The idea that there is a battle between public and private or between large aerospace and small aerospace is really missing the boat. The challenges that we have to overcome will require the combined skillsets of people and technologies on all sides.”

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