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What Is Satellite Data?

Images of the earth, its atmosphere, and other planets in space recorded by satellites make up satellite data.

Where Does Satellite Data Come From?

Most satellites recording images or data that can be turned into images and maps were launched by governments. However, there are some private companies or individuals who have launched satellites of their own.

This data also makes use of aerial and ground-based sensors in addition to space-based satellites. As an example, you will have a much more complete picture of tectonic plate movement by enriching temporal satellite data with data from terrestrial sensors that record ground movements.

What Types of Columns/Attributes Should I Expect When Working with This Data?

Most often, you will find this data in the form of images and maps—especially interactive and time-lapse maps. The most common attributes are latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates.

Additional attributes depend on the purpose for which the dataset was built. For instance, some satellite data must use RADAR to penetrate cloud cover to record land in real time. Meanwhile, climatologists who specifically measure cloud cover require spectroradiometric satellites.

What Is This Data Used For?

People use this data to track weather patterns and climate change, identify military targets and illegal logging activities, determine exact country boundaries, track likely disease vectors and the extent of natural disasters, etc. And that is just for planet earth! Researchers also collect satellite data on other planets, comets, and such for exploration.

How Should I Test the Quality of Satellite Data?

The two most important factors to consider in determining satellite data quality are technology and relevancy.

First, the equipment you use to gather the data must be in excellent condition. Since governments and militaries maintain most satellites, however, this is generally not a concern.

Second, your dataset must suit your needs. As in the examples above, consider your purpose in collecting this data before deciding on a data source.

Once done, you can ensure your dataset meets your requirements for update frequency and image resolution.

Interesting Case Studies and Blogs to Look Into

USGS EarthExplorer
Satellite Data | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) formerly known as National Climatic Data Center (NCDC)

Tangible Examples of Impact

Farmers face many challenges these days in determining soil quality, weather conditions, etc. Despite the advances in technologies, it is difficult for it to be cost-effective, accessible, and helpful simultaneously. SpaceSense’s [satellite data] platform is both accurate and cost-saving. The platform offers the users to customize their models for very diverse uses like yield prediction, soil humidity detection, crop health monitoring, etc., making it very beneficial for different crops.

MarTech Post: SpaceSense Raises 1 Million Euros To Use Satellite Imagery with AI for Agriculture

Relevant datasets

PanXchange Hemp Data

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PanXchange Hemp Data tracks hemp cultivation & trade, including benchmarking. It begins with monthly spot biomass data for key US states

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Planet Satellite Data

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Planet Satellite Data provides real-time satellite images and time-series analysis for agriculture, security, maritime, and other industries

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Open Cosmos Space Data

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Open Cosmos Space Data uses satellites to manage disaster response, air traffic, space-based research in, for example, micro-gravity, & more

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