NASA Will Pick Up More Earth-Observation Data from Planet and Maxar

Two of Planet's Dove Earth-observing satellites as seen deploying from the International Space Station.
Two of Planet's Dove Earth-observing satellites as seen deploying from the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA plans to purchase even more satellite data about Earth after a pilot program in this field went well, according to a media report.

The agency plans to buy more data from the Planet and Maxar satellites and is still evaluating data from a third company, Spire Global, for possibly extending the purchase agreement, a report in SpaceNews stated. The three companies were tasked with providing data to NASA under purchase agreements made in an October 2018 pilot program.

In a presentation at the American Geophysical Union's annual conference in San Francisco on Dec. 10, NASA Earth Observing System Data and Information System executive Kevin Murphy said that one issue the agency encountered involved licensing agreements. The agreement with the companies initially allowed NASA limited publication use under scientific case licenses.

Related: Planet Labs Photos of Earth from Space (Gallery)

"Standard scientific collaborations were inhibited by the license agreement. Being able to share information and collaborate is highly important," Murphy said, according to SpaceNews. 

The agency plans to move forward with more-permissive scientific use licenses that would restrict how much data NASA obtains but allow for more sharing opportunities, Murphy added. NASA also plans to offer more slots, about every 12 to 18 months, to companies that want to join the program, he said.

In 2018, NASA said that the data program would fund researchers to investigate whether the information obtained by small sats would enhance or complement other Earth observations performed by larger satellites owned and operated by NASA, other U.S. government agencies or international groups.

"This pilot program is an innovative and efficient way for us to acquire, examine and evaluate a wide range of private-sector Earth-observation data," Michael Freilich, director of NASA's Earth Science Division, said in a statement at the time. "As our very capable NASA research satellite fleet ages and more small satellites are launched by private industry, there are opportunities to leverage the strengths of each into even more-complete climate data sets."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: