The French government has agreed to open its Spot optical Earth observation data archive and distribute, free of charge to noncommercial users, Spot satellite data that is at least five years old.
The Jan. 23 announcement by the French space agency, CNES, followed a French government commitment made Jan. 17 during a meeting in Geneva of the 80 governments that comprise the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).
CNES said its decision was made in concert with Airbus Defence and Space, formerly named Astrium Services, which since 2008 has been the majority shareholder in the company that commercializes Spot data.
CNES said the move to open up access to Spot imagery, which dates from 1986, “is the first major contribution from the private sector to the construction of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).”
CNES has already begun processing, at its own charge, a first tranche of 100,000 images that will be available later this year.
The French government decision follows a similar decision, made in 2013, by the European Commission to make freely available much of the data from the future Copernicus series of optical and radar Earth observation satellites. At the same time, the commission is taking steps to protect the still-fragile European private sector that makes a business of selling imagery commercially.