The Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition (CSDA) Program was established to identify, evaluate, and acquire data from commercial sources that support NASA's Earth science research and application goals. NASA's Earth Science Division (ESD) recognizes the potential impact commercial small-satellite (smallsat) constellations may have in encouraging/enabling efficient approaches to advancing Earth System Science and applications development for societal benefit.
Commercially acquired data may also provide a cost-effective means to augment and/or complement the suite of Earth observations acquired by NASA and other U.S. government agencies and those by international partners and agencies. Going forward, NASA-funded researchers will be able to request access to the data from the commercial small satellite vendors. NASA will maintain the archive of data purchased from the vendors. Information about these vendors and data is available on the Commercial Datasets page.
CSDA was initiated in 2017 with the Private-Sector Small Constellation Satellite Data Product Pilot Project.
The objectives of the program are to:
- Establish continuous and repeatable processes to on-ramp new commercial data vendors and evaluate data for its potential to advance NASA's Earth science research and applications activities.
- Enable the sustained use of purchased data for broader use and dissemination by NASA scientific community.
- Ensure long-term data preservation through the establishment of data management processes and systems to support rapid evaluation, access and distribution of purchased data, and long-term access to purchased data for scientific reproducibility.
- Coordinate with other U.S. Government agencies and international partners on the evaluation and scientific use of commercial data.
The scientific community may use commercial datasets that are acquired by NASA for scientific purposes in adherence to vendor-specific terms and conditions. Currently, data acquired by NASA are available at no cost to NASA-funded researchers. Data from Spire Global Subsidiary, Inc., and data acquired through NASA's ESD collaboration with the International Space Station (ISS) from the Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc. DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer (DESIS) are available for all U.S. Government-funded researchers. Planet data are now available for U.S. Government Federal civil agencies and National Science Foundation funded researchers.
Information about these vendors, user licenses, and data is available on the Commercial Datasets page. As additional commercial small satellite datasets are evaluated and acquired, those datasets will also be made available.
As the capabilities of commercial satellite vendors grow, NASA's Earth Sciences Division (ESD) will continuously monitor the development of these companies and acquire relevant data to complement NASA's Earth observation data.
Data that is favorably evaluated and deemed of sufficient value will be purchased by NASA for broader sustained use. Contract types will be selected on a vendor-by-vendor basis that are best suited to provide long-term access to data.
To facilitate standard scientific collaborations, NASA will seek end-user license agreements (EULAs) to enable broad levels of dissemination and shareability of the commercial data with U.S. Government agencies and partners.
On-ramp and Evaluation
With the transition from pilot to ongoing data acquisition activities, ESD has established a process for identifying vendors and evaluating data.
Request for Information (RFI)/Request for Proposal (RFP)
Every 12 months a RFI will be issued with the goal of identifying data that are potentially valuable for NASA's Earth science research and application activities. Vendors that meet the minimum qualifications of the RFI will be asked to submit a RFP so NASA can enter into a contract to evaluate their data and/or for potential longer term sustained use. All RFIs, RFPs, and contracts will contain a standardized scientific use license to minimize the effort by NASA and confusion by users on how data can be used. The CSDA Draft Request for Proposal (DRFP) was posted September 27, 2022.
Data from selected vendors will be evaluated by teams of PIs selected by NASA's ESD. The selected PIs will be required to submit a final report as part of the evaluation. The reported results will be summarized and reported out to ESD senior management. The summary report is not intended to be a consensus recommendation, but a document that takes into account the results of all team member evaluations.
NASA will use the summary report, individual PI reports, and other information to determine the suitability of data from each vendor for future procurements. The Pilot (On-ramp #1) summary report (PDF) is available.
Earth observation data products currently under evaluation are from the onboarded, On-ramp #2 vendors Airbus DS GEO (US), Inc., Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) X-band radar satellites and BlackSky Geospatial Solutions, Inc., four band optical products.
More details on the data evaluations are available on our Smallsat Data Evaluation page. All data purchased during the evaluation phase will be preserved for long term data use by NASA for future use in accordance with the scientific use license.
The program is reaching out to the scientific community via science meetings, workshops, and conference presentations.
Read publications by NASA-funded researchers about how they are using commercial Earth science small satellite data.