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Europe’s meteorological satellite agency makes first commercial data acquisition

TAMPA, Fla. — Europe’s meteorological satellite agency is buying commercial data for the first time, raising hopes that it will open up more agency and government contracts to the private sector.

Eumetsat, an intergovernmental group backed by 30 European member states, announced a pilot Aug. 5 to buy weather forecasting data from Luxembourg-based Spire Global.

It agreed to spend as much as nine million euros ($11 million) over three years to buy the radio occultation data that Spire collects, giving Eumetsat more information on the atmosphere’s temperature and moisture levels to make weather forecasting models more accurate.

The data from Spire, which operates more than 100 nanosatellites in low Earth orbit and plans to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange this summer, will feed into data Eumetsat gets from other sources.

“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,” Eumetsat Director General Phil Evans said in a statement. 

Evans, who became director general in January, said the pilot allows the group to “assess the costs versus the benefits of opportunities that are available from” space startups. 

The agreement gives Eumetsat a global license for accessing Spire’s data in near real-time. It also allows the agency to share the data immediately with third parties.

Luis Gomes, CEO of Swedish satellite maker and space solutions provider AAC Clyde Space, said the agreement is “great news” for space startups.

“Commercial companies can be a powerful ally in dramatically expanding weather data collection by bringing more timely data and whole new types of data to the market,” Gomes said.

AAC Clyde Space recently acquired Omnisys, which develops weather sensors and instruments for space.

“For companies like AAC Clyde Space, that are developing advanced weather data missions, this marks a crucial milestone in European weather data policy,” Gomes added.

“This is the start of a revolution in the way we access space weather data, and I am sure this will transform the way we forecast and monitor weather. It is an area of development that is increasingly important as our climate rapidly changes.”

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