NASA Is Making Troves of Satellite Data More Accessible Than Ever

This image made available by NASA shows an illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

This image made available by NASA shows an illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). NASA/AP

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The open data and new toolkit could inspire a new crop of entrepreneurs.

NASA on Wednesday launched an online toolkit that could make it easier than ever for businesses and entrepreneurs to cash in on the space agency’s troves of satellite data.

For years groups have used NASA satellite imagery to forecast crop growth, monitor wildlife and even enhance video games, but the data and analytics tools behind those applications were scattered across more than 50 agency websites.

Scientists and researchers eventually learned to navigate the maze of resources, but general users faced a higher barrier to entry, according to Daniel Lockney, head of NASA’s Technology Transfer Program, which works to bring space technologies to the public.

“NASA data, toolsets and software were all available for people to find and use, [but] the process of locating all of these different assets was daunting,” Lockney told Nextgov. “We wanted to change that.”

The Remote Sensor Toolkit brings those resources together into a single portal where users can begin their search for the data sets and tools most relevant to their work. The site also give people the opportunity to code their own data analytics programs.

While Lockney said he doesn’t know exactly how the tools will be used, the success of previous initiatives has shown the benefits open source tools and open data can have on the private sector.

“We’re hoping that this leads to new companies forming, new services being offered to consumers, and an overall improvement of quality of life as the rich data from space is used to make our lives safer, more interesting and more convenient,” he said.

NASA plans to host a workshop to teach people how to use the toolkit, but the agency has yet to set a date.