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In a first, EUMETSAT will buy meteorological data from a commercial supplier


Pilot programme will allow member states to assess the costs versus benefits

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Europe’s meteorological satellite agency, EUMETSAT, is launching an innovative pilot programme to buy, for the first time, data from a commercial satellite fleet operator for use in weather forecasting.

Last Updated

14 September 2021

Published on

21 July 2021

EUMETSAT’s governing council has approved the acquisition of data from Spire Global Luxembourg S.a.r.l. at a maximum cost of €9 million over three years.

EUMETSAT will receive the data, called radio occultation data, from Spire, process it, and disseminate it for use in weather forecast modelling.

“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 programme basis allows EUMETSAT and its Member States to assess the costs versus the benefits of opportunities that are available from the ‘new space’ sector.”

Global navigation satellite system radio occultation data provide an immediate description of the state of the atmosphere. This is achieved by measuring how a signal sent from a GPS satellite is refracted when it is sent through the atmosphere to a satellite in low-Earth orbit. The temperature and amount of moisture in the atmosphere will determine the magnitude of the signal’s refraction.

Spire operates a fleet of more than 100 nanosatellites in low-Earth orbit.

EUMETSAT's processing and monitoring of the data from the private sector will ensure consistency with other sources of radio occultation data. The organisation will not require additional hardware or software to process, disseminate and archive the additional data.

Under the contract approved by its council, EUMETSAT will receive the Spire data in near-real time with a global licence that will allow the data to be shared immediately with any third party. This approach, strongly supported by EUMETSAT Member States, is in line with on-going discussion on the World Meteorological Organization’s data policies, which commit to broaden and enhance the free and unrestricted international exchange of Earth system data.

“With many economic sectors dependent on accurate weather forecasting, EUMETSAT is committed to exploring cost-effective ways to evolve and innovate, to equip meteorological services in our Member States with the data they need to protect the communities they serve,” Evans said.

“Our ability to be flexible to meet Member States’ needs is particularly important in a time when the changing climate is impacting on our weather systems.”