Startup Lauds NOAA’s  Work on Data Standards

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A meeting with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s top satellite official has small-satellite operator Spire Inc. hopeful that the agency will publish standards for commercial weather data by the end of the year.

Steve Volz, NOAA assistant administrator for satellite and information services, hosted representatives of Spire and other aspiring commercial weather data providers at a luncheon April 27 during the 2015 NOAA Satellite Conference in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The invitation-only meeting’s goal was to update companies on NOAA’s progress crafting standards for commercial satellite-data buys — something the agency says it must do before it can fold this data into its weather forecasting models.

“I left very, very positive from that session,” Spire Chief Executive Peter Platzer told SpaceNews May 6. “They [NOAA] have a very aggressive time line in putting out standards and how to interact with [the agency] in the coming months.”

According to Platzer, NOAA said the standards might be published by the end of the year, around the time Spire hopes to have its initial constellation of 25 three-unit cubesats in orbit to provide weather data based on GPS signal occultation readings.

The satellites, which Spire calls “Lemurs,” are built by Clyde Space of Glasgow, Scotland, to the international cubesat standard, where a single modular unit measures 10 centimeters on a side.

Platzer would not identify the rockets on which the Lemurs will ride.

“Launches move back and forth, which is why we have purchased half a dozen launches,” Platzer said. “We will start launching in the third quarter of this year and keep cramming.”

On March 26, the House Science Committee advanced a bipartisan bill that would require NOAA not only to publish standards for commercial satellite-data buys by Dec. 31 but also to begin purchasing data by Oct. 31, 2016. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a floor vote in the House.

NOAA spokesman John Leslie declined to comment.