Satellite remote sensing technology has contributed to the transformation of multiple earth science domains, putting space observations at the forefront of innovation in earth science. With new satellite missions being launched every year, new types of earth science data are being incorporated into science models and decision-making systems in a broad array of organizations. Policy guidance can influence the degree to which user needs influence mission design and when, and ensure that satellite missions serve both the scientific and user communities without becoming unfocused and overly expensive. By considering the needs of the user community early on in the mission-design process, agencies can ensure that satellites meet the needs of multiple constituencies. This paper describes the mission development process in NASA and ESA and compares and contrasts the successes and challenges faced by these agencies as they try to balance science and applications within their missions.