NOAA To Trickle Out Commercial Weather Standards
WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will not publish quality standards for commercial weather data until at least the end of the year, a senior NOAA official said here Nov. 4.
Even then, the weather agency will not spell out every standard for every sort of measurement it might purchase, Deputy Administrator Manson Brown said after a speech at a Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon.
Instead, NOAA will trickle out quality standards as part of a so-called procedural guide it will publish in December. The guide will formalize the rules of engagement between NOAA and aspiring commercial weather companies, which according to the draft Commercial Space Policy NOAA released Sept. 1, will interface with the agency through its Office of Space Commercialization.
“One of the things we’ve been thinking about doing, because we know that there’s a lot of anxiety out there about what those standards are … is perhaps giving an example or two in the procedural guide, so that people can see the context of what we’re talking about” Brown said. “That discussion continues within NOAA.”
The procedural guide is slated to appear in draft form in the federal register by the end of the year, Brown said.
Meanwhile, NOAA will issue its finalized Commercial Space Policy “in the coming weeks,” Brown said.
The policy got a chilly reception from lawmakers on Capitol Hill who want to see data from the private sector folded into NOAA weather forecast models as soon as possible.
In September, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), who respectively chair the House Science Committee and its environment subcommittee, complained in a joint letter to NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan that the policy did not include data buy standards.
Some in industry were also unhappy with the draft policy.
Anne Miglarese, president and chief executive of aspiring commercial weather satellite operator Planet IQ, Bethesda, Maryland, panned the draft policy, writing in a formal comment that it “focuses more on the concerns of foreign stakeholders than on making the agency’s capabilities more resilient and robust.”
In a hearing this summer before Bridenstine’s environment subcommittee, Brown told lawmakers NOAA must share any global weather data it collects with international space agencies, under the 20 year-old World Meteorological Organization Resolution 40. The World Meteorological Organization is part of the United Nations.
Brown said during that hearing there is no getting around that obligation by any means — a notion Bridenstine and Planet IQ have challenged.
Brown said Nov. 4 that NOAA’s final Commercial Space Policy would include “appropriate adjustments” based on the comments the agency received on its draft.
The next chance would-be commercial data providers will get to bend NOAA’s ear on policy matters will be during a yet-to-be-scheduled conference similar to a gathering the agency hosted in April for users of its various satellites.
NOAA has yet to set time or a venue for that conference. Brown said the gathering would happen within 90 days of Nov. 4.