Goward, SN, Townshend, JRG, Zanoni, V, Policelli, F, Stanley, T, Ryan, R, Holekamp, K, Underwood, L, Pagnutti, M, Fletcher, R (2003). Acquisition of earth science remote sensing observations from commercial sources: lessons learned from the Space Imaging IKONOS example. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT, 88(2-Jan), 209-219.
Over the last decade, NASA and other federal agencies have been increasingly encouraged to explore commercial sources of land remote sensing data rather than pursuing government-funded sources of these measurements (prior to U.S. Commercial Executive, 2003. U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Policy. White House, Washington, DC). The science and applications users have been skeptical of this move to commercial sources of observations both because of uncertainty over the capabilities of the private sector and the unsatisfactory outcomes of previous efforts to commercialize satellite-acquired land remote sensing observations. In an effort to more fully explore the potential of commercial remotely sensed land data sources, the NASA Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) implemented an experimental Scientific Data Purchase (SDP) that solicited bids from the private sector to meet ESE-user data needs. The SDP activity spanned nearly 5 years and supplied many US and international researchers with sources of land remote sensing observations that had not been previously available. The images from the Space Imaging IKONOS system provided a particularly good match to the current ESE missions such as Terra and Landsat 7 and therefore serve as focal point in this analysis. Throughout the SDP process, there have been many lessons learned concerning interactions between US industry, government agencies and the science user community. The specifies of the Space Imaging IKONOS experience under the NASA SDP are most valuable with respect to possible future uses of commercial vendors to supply NASA ESE user needs for space-acquired land observations. Areas where valuable lessons were learned included the technical, scientific, proprietary and management aspects of the interactions. As this activity has evolved, user confidence in the technical and scientific qualities of the IKONOS measurements has increased substantially. There are still areas where further progress could be achieved, with respect to proprietary and management aspects of scientific commercial data buys. To date, the NASA scientific and applications users who have examined the IKONOS imagery have found the data to be of high quality, providing substantial value to their specific pursuits. They have found that the novel attributes of IKONOS, particularly in the spatiotemporal domain have introduced new analysis challenges not previously experienced with EOS sensors such as Landsat and MODIS. The technical qualities of the observations have been substantially improved during the SDP activity as a result of independent validation and verification by the Joint Agency Commercial Imagery Evaluation (JACIE) of the IKONOS observations. The experience gained from the Space Imaging IKONOS SDP activity, suggests that US private sector is technically capable of meeting the needs of NASA ESE science and application users. The future success of such interactions between industry, government and users appears to be far more dependent on the organizational and legal aspects of such arrangements than technical capabilities of the data providers. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.