Today the Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittees on Space and Environment held a joint hearing titled Exploring Commercial Opportunities to Maximize Earth Science Investments. The hearing explored ways NASA can satisfy Earth science data requirements through public-private partnerships, including commercial capabilities.

Subcommittee on Space Chairman Brian Babin: “Given our constrained budget environment and NASA’s new responsibilities, public-private partnerships may offer an opportunity to lower costs and improve Earth observation data while fulfilling science community requirements, including data continuity. Over the past decade, the United States private space-based remote sensing sector has made significant improvements in technology, products, and services. Leveraging commercial off-the-shelf technology, borrowing ideas from the information technology community, and developing innovative low-cost solutions with high performance outcomes, the private sector is demonstrating new capabilities that could be used to address many of NASA’s earth observation data needs.”

Subcommittee on Environment Chairman Jim Bridenstine: “What’s happening in the commercial space sector often outpaces what the government can do. We must figure out how to best take advantage of these technologies and solutions from industry. NASA’s Earth Science directorate has done great work on behalf of my constituents, particularly in helping us to better understand the weather, which has improved our ability to protect lives and property. Going forward, NASA should leverage rapidly advancing technologies from the private sector to the fullest extent possible.”

NASA’s Earth observation program is the largest U.S. government civil remote sensing effort and perhaps the largest civil remote sensing effort in the world. NASA currently operates 26 Earth observation satellites, with 12 under development. NASA has partnerships with both government and non-government user-communities, domestic and international, to access NASA data provided by these satellites. It has a number of public-private partnerships on subjects such as data analytics, data visualization, and geospatial products. However, none of NASA’s Earth observation satellites, either in operation or under development, are public-private partnerships. NASA does have a program in place to procure commercial satellite Earth observation data under the 1998 Science Data Buy Program, but the program has not been used by NASA for over a decade.

The following witnesses testified today:

· Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, George Washington University
· Dr. Walter Scott, Founder and Chief Technical Officer, DigitalGlobe
· Mr. Robbie Schingler, Co-Founder and President, PlanetLabs
· Dr. Samuel Goward, Emeritus Professor of Geography, University of Maryland at College Park
· Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland

For more information about the hearing, including witness testimony and a link to the webcast, please visit the Committee’s website.