WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Air Force develops a long-term weather satellite strategy, the service also is considering using commercial weather data to meet gaps in its forecasting capabilities.

In a request for information posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website in late December, the Air Force said it was looking for white papers that would describe industry’s “long-term interest in providing weather data as a commercial service, utilizing currently available or projected on-orbit weather capabilities.”

The notice appears to be the service’s first foray into using commercially available weather data to meet requirements. The interest in the commercial weather marketplace arrived the same day that a trio of researchers, including Peter Wegner, the former director of the Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space office, wrote in an Air Force magazine that the Defense Department will come to rely on commercial services for 80 percent of weather-sensing data.

For much of 2015, the Air Force struggled to articulate its long-term weather satellite strategy to Congress, while a number of startup companies, including PlanetiQ, GeoMetWatch and Spire, have developed plans to provide weather data to commercial and government customers.

In an essay for the Air & Power Journal, Wegner, along with Thomas Adang, the senior technical adviser at the ORS office, and Maureen Rheman, senior executive and director of the Reperi’s Analysis Center, said the “budding” commercial industry could provide weather data in areas such as cloud imaging. 

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