15 Free Satellite Imagery Data Sources

Source: http://gisgeography.com/free-satellite-imagery-data-list/

If you want free satellite data, there’s no better way to do it then to follow this incredibly useful guide. Ranked from top to lower tier, here are your go-to free satellite imagery sources. Take a look at our list of eyes from the sky.

1 USGS Earth Explorer – Unlock the Power of Landsat and More

USGS Earth Explorer

Whether you live in the United States, in the Arctic circle or an obscure country like Transnistria, we can all appreciate the abundance of data theUSGS Earth Explorer has to offer.

We’ve relentlessly hyped USGS Earth Explorerhere, here and here… .and we’re about to do it again…

From no data to hyperspectral data, USGS is the undisputed world champion of free satellite data providers. Here’s why:

  • Access to Landsat satellite data – a legacy that goes unmatched. 40-years of history of our Earth with consistent spectral bands.
  • Vertically position yourself with NASA’s ASTER and Shuttle Radar Topography Missions global Digital Elevation Models.
  • Gain full access to NASA’s Land Data Products and Services including Hyperion’s hyperspectral data, MODIS & AVHRR land surface reflectance and disperse Radar data.

We sound like a broken record. But USGS Earth Explorer is a world class source of free satellite data. Regardless where you live, you NEED to look at the USGS Earth Explorer.

Read More: How to Download Free Landsat Imagery from the USGS Earth Explorer:

2 ESA’s Sentinel Mission – New Leader in Free High Resolution Data?

How To Download Sentinel Satellite Data

Sentinels Scientific Data Hub is the official download headquarters for the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellite data.

But the question is: Is ESA’s sentinel satellites a worthy alternative to Landsat? I’d say yes… but without the long-lasting legacy. Here’s why:

  • Sentinel-2a and 2b have crisper spatial resolution (10 meters in the visible and near-infrared). More spectral bands (12 in total). And most important of all, it’s free satellite imagery for the masses.
  • Add Sentinel-1 into the equation. Now, you have C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar of the entire world at your fingertips. Simply put, Sentinel satellites give you high quality passive and active data of the entire Earth.

Read more: What’s the Difference Between Active and Passive?

In the last year or so, ESA’s Sentinel 2A has dethroned Landsat as the undisputed world champion of free high spatial resolution satellite data. Bold statement? SAR-C from Sentinel-1. Add the 12 spectral bands from Sentinel 2A. It’s not such a bold statement, after all.

ESA’s Copernicus Programme is the start of a new and exciting era for the remote sensing community. They will launch 5 more Earth observing satellites along with the Sentinel-2 Toolbox for processing and analyzing Sentinel data and imagery

You’re wise to take a look at the sharpest, free satellite imagery source available from the European Space Agency.

Read More: How to Download Free Satellite Data (Sentinel-1 and 2A) from the Sentinel Science Data Hub

3 NOAA CLASS – An Ocean of Free Satellite Data

NOAA Class

Set sails.

Because NOAA will take you on a journey to fistfuls of free high quality atmospheric data sets(and more).

NOAA uses an online library system called theComprehensive Large Array-data Stewardship System (CLASS) to store a plethora of environmental data. Data comes from the US Department of Defense (DoD) Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES), NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES), and other derived data.

Currently, the NOAA National Data Centers support POES, DMSP, GOES, MetOp, Jason-2 data, and selected model reanalysis data. It will archive data collections from the NPP, JPSS (formerly NPOESS), GOES-R, Jason-3, and planned Earth-based observing systems include NEXRAD products.

A LOT is here. But we found it a bit hard to navigate in NOAA’s CLASS. The user-friendliness from the USGS Earth Explorer and Sentinel Science Data Hub simply can’t be beat.

4 NASA Reverb – Satellite Data from the Masters

NASA Reverb

There’s a lot to like about NASA’s Reverb Data Hub. Especially, after it’s new facelift. It has a fresh new look and interface for discovering Earth Science data, NASA Reverb contends

First off – the choices of satellite data is incredible:

Aqua, Terra, Aura, TRMM, Calipso, NASA DC, JASON, ENVISAT, ALOS, METEOSAT, GOES, ICESAT, GMS, Landsat, NIMBUS, SMAP, RADARSAT, NOAA satellites, GPS satellites, the list goes on…

Admittedly, it takes a bit of practice to navigate. There are 30 ways to narrow down your data. Our suggestion is to start with a simple search. Change the time range criteria. Narrow it down, and download your free satellite imagery.

You’ll get the hang of it, after a couple of tries.

This Reverb Basic Usage Tutorial will help.

5 Earth Observation Link (EOLi) – ESA’s EO Catalogue


The Earth Observation Link (EOLi) is the European Space Agency’s client for Earth Observation Catalog and Ordering Services.

The EOLi is a bit dated. It’s a JAVA application that you can download to your PC. It works on any major operating system.

While slow and buggy, you can browse and preview images from Earth Observation data from Envisat, ERS, IKONOS, DMC, ALOS, SPOT, Kompsat, Proba, IRS, SCISAT.

Select your study area or add a shapefile or KMZ. Select your satellite collection with a limit of 10 to search from. Click “Search catalogue”. If satellite data is available, click Append. The search results will be shown in the bottom with scene previews on the right. Select the scene you want to download, and click the order button (shopping cart).

6 National Institute for Space Research (INPE)


The partnership between Brazil and China has their own image catalog of remotely-sensed data which lets you download free satellite imagery using the INPE Image Catalog.

The catalog includes satellite imagery from their own China–Brazil Earth Resources Satellite 2 and 2b (CBERS-2, CBERS-2b). It includes satellites from the United States, the United Kingdom and the India from Aqua, CBERS, Landsat, ResourceSat, S-NPP, Terra & UK-DMC 2.

The one caveat is that the data is specific to South America and Africa. You’ll have to create an account because each request you make will be sent to your email. You can use your English translation to translate from Portuguese.

Select your satellite and sensor. Choose a country in South America and Africa. Add it to your cart, and click “Go Ahead”. From there you can download your chosen free satellite imagery from the INPE FTP site.

7 Bhuvan Indian Geo-Platform of ISRO

Bhuvan Geo-portal

India has really made big strides in satellite remote sensing technology. It dates back to 1998 with the launch of the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS 1A) satellite.

Now, data is available on the Bhuvan Indian Geo-Platform. The platform is well-built but most of the data is for India only. This includes IMS-1 (Hyperspectral), Cartosat, OceanSat and ResourceSat – which are all Indian satellites.

The following products are available to download outside of India – NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) Global Coverage, CartoDem Version -3R1 for SAARC countries and Climate products for North Indian Ocean.

8 JAXA’s Global ALOS 3D World


The ALOS World 3d is a 30-meter spatial resolution digital surface model (DSM) constructed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA). Recently, this DSM has been made available to the public.

The neat thing about is that it is the most precise global-scale elevation data at this time using the Advanced Land Observing Satellite “DAICHI” (ALOS) – PALSAR’s L-band. JAXA’s SAR mosaics is an exciting development for global elevation.

In order to obtain this highly accurate DSM, you’ll have to register online through the JAXA Global ALOS portal to download it.

9 NOAA Data Access Viewer – Discover Authoritative Datasets

NOAA Data Access Viewer

Once upon a time, the NOAA Aerial Photo Ordering System was the place to go for aerial photos in the United States. It’s currently MIA – missing in action.

NOAA Data Access Viewer is now the place to go for imagery, land cover and elevation data. Here’s where you discover authoritative datasets, customize and download the latest, greatest data – all free.

It’s in beta mode now. The download speeds are slow and sluggish. There’s no registration needed in beta mode – which is its current state at this time. We’ll be adjusting this write-up as all the kinks get ironed out.

10 VITO Vision – Coarse Vegetation Data

Vito Vision

The VITO Vision website offers PROBA-V, SPOT-Vegetation and METOP free satellite imagery. These coarse resolution satellites carves out vegetation patterns of the Earth’s surface.

It takes some time and effort to create an account for VITO Vision. The interface is easy-to-use and delivers free low resolution satellite data at your fingertips.

This type of data is a good for large-scale applications that doesn’t need the finer details.

11 NOAA Digital Coast – Snorkel the Seashore

NOAA DIgital Coast

It’s all about the beautiful seashore, when you’re exploring for data on NOAA’s Digital Coast. Coastal data is all you’re going to get.

To download data, select your area of interest. Define your data set to download. And sift through the results. You have benthic, elevation, imagery, land cover and socio-economic data. You get a range of free satellite imagery to choose from such as radar, infrared and true color composites.

12 Global Land Cover Facility – Derived Satellite Data

Global Land Cover Facility

Landcover.org is your location for derived global land cover data from Landsat, MODIS and AVHRR satellite imagery.

Using Global Land Cover Facility (GLCF) land cover, research efforts can quantify land cover and land cover change around the world. This includes vegetation, geologic, agriculture, hydrologic and urban areas on the Earth’s surface.

We have never had this good of a perspective of our changing planet because of satellite imagery. Some of the biggest challenges that our planet faces can be better understood because remote sensing cover that much ground.

13 DigitalGlobe Free Product Samples

DigitalGlobe Product Samples

DigitalGlobe is the THE largest commercial satellite data supplier in the world… If you want to play with some of the sharpest satellite data in the world, these free satellite imagery samples are just for you.

  • You can almost see license plates with the 30 cm spatial resolution data from the newly launched WorldView-3 satellite.
  • The spectacular Advanced Elevation Series shines in fields such as exploration, engineering, land management and simulation.
  • Test high spatial resolution short-wave infrared (SWIR) bands and see the invisible range that can’t be seen with the human eye.

DigitalGlobe always delivers on their promise on seeing a better world.

See DigitalGlobe’s product samples and find out exactly what you are missing out on.

14 BlackBridge/Geo-Airbus – Tag Team Champions of Satellite Imagery

Geo Airbus

The BlackBridge/Geo Airbus Defense System is your provider for SPOT, Pleiades, RapidEye and TerraSAR data. Timely and accurate satellite data from these satellites are being used in a variety of fields like security, oil & gas, mining & energy, agriculture, environment and disaster mapping.

Both companies offer sample products for you to experiment with. And there’s a lot to work with here, with beautiful satellite imagery of places around the world.

Just to set it straight. For Canadians, Blackbridge is for you. For the rest of the world, Geo Airbus Defense Systems is your provider for these specific satellites. There are a couple of locations to download sample data. See below:

15 UNAVCO Research Data

UNAVCO Data Portal

If you don’t know who UNAVCO is, here’s a quick and helpful 3 minute video to learn what UNAVCO is all about – UNAVCO Explained in 3 Minutes.

University NAVSTAR Consortium (UNAVCO) is an organization of universities who support scientific research using geodesy technology. Flooding, plate tectonics, earthquakes – our world is all connected. UNAVCO promotes research by providing access to geodesy data. They do this with their own UNAVCO SAR Archive Search User Interface.

This website is flooded with Synthetic Aperture Radar satellites sources – and that’s a good thing. But you’ll need a username and password to get your hands on your very own SAR data. This could be a big hurdle in the process.


About Qiusheng Wu

Assistant Professor of Geography at Binghamton University, State University of New York

Posted on January 31, 2016, in GIS/RS, Tutorials and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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