Europe’s meteorological satellite agency, EUMETSAT, is launching an innovative pilot program to buy, for the first time, data from a commercial satellite fleet operator for use in weather forecasting.
Spire Global, a provider of space-based data, analytics, and space services, has been awarded a contract to provide radio occultation satellite data to EUMETSAT. Spire’s data will be distributed to the EUMETSAT user community worldwide to aid in its forecasting efforts and is gathered from Spire’s constellation of more than 110 low-earth orbit nanosatellites.
Spire’s radio occultation data is captured around the clock and during extreme weather conditions or heavy cloud cover, unlike traditional visible satellite imagery. EUMETSAT will leverage this radio occultation data to provide greater accuracy and depth to its forecasts, even in remote areas and on the open ocean.
EUMETSAT’s governing council approved the acquisition of data from Spire Global at a maximum cost of €9m (US$10m) over three years.
“Radio occultation data give us information about the temperature and level of moisture in the atmosphere. The data has a proven positive impact on the accuracy of weather forecasts,” EUMETSAT director-general Phil Evans said.
“EUMETSAT already supplies radio occultation data from an instrument on board its Metop low-Earth-orbiting satellites to the meteorological services in its member states, but research has shown that the use of more of these data increases the accuracy of weather forecasting models. The decision to buy these data from a commercial supplier on a pilot program basis allows EUMETSAT and its member states to assess the costs versus the benefits of opportunities that are available from the ‘new space’ sector,” he added.