In September 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initiated the first trial run to evaluate how weather data from the private sector can enhance forecasting accuracy. As part of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot program, NOAA awarded contracts to Spire and GeoOptics to provide data collected via space-based GNSS radio occultation.
The Commercial Weather Data Pilot program as a whole seeks to evaluate and demonstrate the viability of augmenting NOAA’s meteorological models with commercial environmental data and products. After some positive preliminary results, NOAA issued three more contracts in September 2018 to the private sector for the second round of the program. This represents an advancement from earlier methods of collecting space-based weather data, which were initially dependent on satellite photography and limited use of infrared sensors. NASA’s Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS) was the first program to provide accurate weather forecasts based on data gathered from space. TIROS-1 began continuous coverage in 1962; although only operational for 78 days, it served as a proof of concept that satellites could be effective tools for collecting space-based weather data.