NASA awarded blanket purchase agreements to acquire commercial smallsat data from Airbus DS GEO (US), Inc., (Airbus) and BlackSky Geospatial Solutions, Inc., (BlackSky) for evaluation. The purchase is in response to ongoing efforts by NASA’s Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition (CSDA) Program to identify commercial satellite data and associated metadata that may benefit NASA Earth science research. A one-year assessment of the Airbus data products is underway, with the assessment of BlackSky products to begin shortly.
Airbus is providing a comprehensive catalog of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Earth observation products from their TerraSAR-X, TanDEM-X, and PAZ X-band radar satellites along with their suite of elevation data products derived from radar data. The data and imagery offer high temporal and spatial resolution to provide high-resolution imagery and precise elevation information for nearly any point on Earth, independent of cloud cover and weather. The products are applicable to various NASA Earth science investigations, including monitoring drift ice in the absence of daylight, detecting surface movement in oil and gas fields, and identifying objects in remote areas.
BlackSky data are from its constellation of 12 satellites that provide imagery in four reflective bands: red, green, blue, and panchromatic. These satellites are part of BlackSky’s second-generation, or Gen-2, satellites, which are deployed in both Sun-synchronous and mid-inclination orbits to facilitate global coverage. The high spatial and temporal dawn-to-dusk imagery from BlackSky can be used for a wide range of pattern-of-life and anomaly detection research.
Airbus and BlackSky responded to a Request for Information (RFI) released in October 2019. The RFI was part of CSDA’s on-ramp #2 to assess the utility of commercial smallsat data in achieving goals and objectives related to the NASA Earth Science Division’s Research and Analysis and Applied Sciences Programs. Companies operating commercial small satellite constellations with a minimum of three satellites in non-geostationary orbit with consistent, large-scale coverage were invited to submit a capability statement.
CSDA is a component of NASA’s Earth Science Data Systems (ESDS) Program and is charged with identifying, evaluating, and acquiring commercial remote sensing imagery and data that support NASA’s Earth science research and application activities. These commercial data may inform any of NASA’s research focus areas: carbon cycle and ecosystems, climate variability and change, atmospheric composition, water and energy cycle, weather and atmospheric dynamics, and Earth surface and interior. The data also may enhance information and situational awareness related to NASA’s applications themes of disasters, water resources, ecological forecasting, health and air quality, food security, energy, and wildfires as well as NASA’s international development efforts.