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The Regional Applications Center Program

A major barrier to the wider use of Earth remote sensing data is timely access to satellite data products that can be easily combined with other resource management applications already being carried out by the general user community. NASA's Regional Applications Center (RAC) development effort was initiated by the Goddard Space Flight Center's Applied Information Sciences Branch (sponsor of this Tutorial) to enable and greatly enhance NASA's Earth Sciences programs in education, commercial partnership, data usage, and public awareness requirements. RACs provide the capability to directly receive and manipulate localized (pertaining to areas relevant to and influenced by an RAC's region) satellite data inexpensively on a routine basis. The RAC Program resulted from a desire to make NASA-developed technologies available as well to the public sector.

RAC objectives are founded on an overall goal of fostering the self-supporting use of environmental and Earth science data by regional institutions including state and local government, universities, consortia, and commercial companies. These objectives include:

  1. Promoting the establishment of self-sustaining public and private sector working relationships to broaden user access to NASA data.
  2. Validating, refining, and transferring NASA technology through collaborative testbedding.
  3. Incorporating RAC applied research results into shareable global environmental knowledge bases, and
  4. Stimulating the development of associated commercial activities.

With respect to Earth science applications, algorithms implemented at each RAC provide a high degree of accuracy in mapping the satellite data to the regional geography within the RACs service area. One of the unique and innovative features of the information system being developed is its capability of supporting multiple-user points of view as well as allowing users to customize the system to represent their specific applications. Current plans call for RACs to be applied to agriculture, forest and wetlands inventories, environmental resource management applications, and public safety tied to prediction of possible weather-related alerts. More generally, these systems can help educate the public about the value and relevance of Earth-sensing satellite data.

In the spirit of inventing "new ways of doing business", the RAC concept represents a paradigm shift towards evolutionary, flexible, and cost-efficient information management techniques. The collaborative development and involvement of non-traditional users will make Earth science data easier to preserve, locate and access for regional applications.

A prime goal of the RAC program is to enfranchise the general public in the broader integration of Earth satellite data with localized data to address regional and environmental problems or issues, e.g., resource management, disaster relief, education, etc. The RAC system can also be of aid to commercial profit-making enterprises, e.g., agribusiness, insurance, oil exploration, weather forecasting, etc.

RAC's have the capacity to activate research and development leading to new services based on information management capabilities. They can serve as regional centers of excellence for a full range of remote sensing practice as well as for the evolvement and exploitation of information technologies. In addition to generating information products to support decision making and planning, such regional centers would invite participants and clients to share in global scientific and technical data, information, and knowledge through access to their own in-house technologies.

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Primary Author: Nicholas M. Short, Sr. email:

Collaborators: Code 935 NASA GSFC, GST, USAF Academy
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Last Updated: September '99

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