Letter | Working Together for Better Forecasts

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The GeoOptics Inc. team greatly appreciates the interest of Dr. Cliff Mass in the status and future of GeoOptics Inc. as indicated in his recent SpaceNews op-ed, “Private-sector Provision of Radio Occultation Data.” However, clarifications are needed to ensure an accurate picture.

Very importantly, GeoOptics has never lobbied against COSMIC-2; indeed, we celebrate the world stature of COSMIC and COSMIC-2 to establish beyond a doubt the criticality of radio occultation in precision weather forecasting. Our oft-stated objective is to augment near-term declines in available radio occultation data from the end-of-life of COSMIC-1 and enhance COSMIC-2 with the additional tens of thousands of daily profiles to reach the “at least 50,000 radio occultation observations globally” that our community eagerly seeks.

From our founding in 2006, GeoOptics has labored to advance the free and open exchange of data. We announced at the outset that our data will be made available freely to researchers and all other “nonoperational” users worldwide from day one, with virtually no time delay. This data policy is a standard section of our presentations.

We point out that our principals originally proposed GPS radio occultation at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1988 and led development of much of the key technology under NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sponsorship in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Additionally, in response to a 2008 request for quotation, NOAA awarded GeoOptics a study contract to report on the cost and feasibility of commercial provision of GPS radio occultation data. Our report, “Commercial Data Pricing and Feasibility Study for GNSS Radio Occultation,” has been widely circulated. We submitted pricing updates to NOAA in 2009 and 2010 as well as responses to two commercial weather data requests for information  from NOAA in the past eight months, in which we included COSMIC-2 as the centerpiece of an international radio occultation system.

We propose to serve our clients through data subscriptions with terms decided by their purchasing authorities to accommodate their desired levels of use and distribution, and with time to certify all data meets their technical standards, specifications and requirements. With the commercial approach, the financial and operational risk to the government is negligible.

We hope Dr. Mass will join with us and the rest of the weather data community in seeking ways to lower the cost of critical weather data and speeding its production to avoid data gaps and to deliver the necessary quantities and quality of radio occultation data in the years ahead.

Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr.
Dunwoody, Georgia

The writer is chief executive of GeoOptics Inc.