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NOAA Pathfinder Initiative

Science Working for Society

The term early adopter refers to individuals, businesses and organizations who use new products or technology before others. Companies rely on early adopters to provide feedback about product deficiencies and challenges and to have topical samples for how the information is applied in different areas of society. 


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Why You Should Care

The NOAA Pathfinders are a front line of sophisticated users; they are the community of early adopters of satellite information.   NOAA Pathfinders have the key role of connecting with the concept behind a product, then adopting that product, and finally validating the use of said product(s) for the broader community of beneficiaries.


Developing Data

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The goal of the NOAA Pathfinders is to help develop value studies for the future applications of mission data products shortly after launch.  NOAA missions sponsoring Pathfinders will provide specific support to engage in pre-launch research. The NOAA Pathfinders participate in use case studies that help communicate the value of science to societal decisions and operations.  Pathfinders are sponsored by NOAA missions but have the unique opportunity to bring continuity to select NASA missions (through the NASA Early Adopter Program).  It is expected that this pre-launch research will result in a fundamental understanding of how NOAA mission data products can be scaled and integrated into organizations’ policy, business and management activities to improve decision-making efforts.


The Pathfinder may be either an end-user or conduct the pre-launch research on behalf of an end-user 

  • Pathfinders are groups and individuals who have a direct or clearly defined need for mission data products, have an existing application or decision-making activity, and who are planning to apply their own resources (funding, personnel, facilities, etc.) to demonstrate the utility of data for their particular application.  
  • An application of data is defined here as an societally relevant use of mission data products in decision making activities that can be deemed as a benefit to society.  
  • End-users are defined as users from a national or international, public or private sector organization, industry association, non-governmental organization, university, or government agency who can effectively use the data to make actionable decisions that influence the well-being of their target communities.

Pathfinders are identified during the satellite pre-development stage (Phase A) of a mission’s development based on subject matter expertise that will help validate mission data for the thematic understanding and valuation of applications in society. Once in Phase B, following SRR, Pathfinders are selected for specific thematic areas of societal interest based on their signed Summary of Activities (SAO). 


The Pathfinder agrees to:

  • Engage in pre-launch research that will enable integration of mission data after launch in their area of application;
  • Complete the project with quantitative metrics prior to launch;
  • Join the Mission Development to participate in discussions of mission data products related to areas of societal need; and
  • Participate in the implementation of mission data by taking lead roles in research meetings, topical workshops, and related activities.


In turn, NOAA missions sponsoring Pathfinders agree to:

  • Incorporate the Pathfinder’s contributions into the mission planning documentation;
  • Provide Pathfinders with simulated mission data products; and/or
  • Provide Pathfinders with planned pre-launch calibration and validation (cal/val) data from field campaigns, modeling, and synergistic studies.