Does anyone out there want to collect data using one of three environmental satellites the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has hanging over the Western Hemisphere and Eastern Pacific? They cover a vast area of the world from Ireland to Guam to the bottom of South America and New Zealand, according to an NOAA official.
It seems the NOAA satellite system "has extra capacity," according to a notice in the Oct. 2 Federal Register (page 48634), and the agency is offering that space to civilian users "for the collection from remote locations of environmental data."
Here's how the satellite system works. A collector, whether an individual or a company, places sensors on the ground that record such environmental information as physical, chemical or biological properties of oceans, rivers, lakes, solid earth or the atmosphere, including space. For example, the Corps of Engineers uses the system to keep track of rainfall on rivers and creeks.
The sensor information in one specific area is transmitted from the ground through what is called a data collection platform (DCP) to the satellite, which can accept a one-minute report from a DCP every three hours. The data are then sent from the satellite to the NOAA receiving station, where a computer will print them out.
The NOAA system has 200 domestic channels, each of which can collect from 180 sensor stations on the ground. Only 59 of those channels are in use and they are used only to about 40 percent of capacity. The only hooker for potential private users is that NOAA wants to collect environmental data that are needed for federal, state or local government programs or that would be useful to such programs.
"In certain exceptional circumstances," the notice says, "NOAA may agree to a private user's request for proprietary treatment of collected data . . . ."
The price of the satellite service will be nothing, according to a NOAA official. "It's the one thing left that's free," he said.
For more information contact David S. Johnson, assistant administrator for satellites, NOAA, Room 3130, Main Commerce Building, Washington, D.C. 20230, or call (202) 377-1485.