Program Overview

The Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition (CSDA) program was established by NASA's Earth Science Division (ESD) to identify, evaluate, and acquire commercial small-satellite (smallsat) data that support NASA's Earth science research and application goals. These commercial smallsat data may provide a cost-effective way to augment or complement the suite of Earth observations acquired by NASA, other U.S. Government agencies, and international partners. ESD recognizes the potential impact commercial small-satellite (smallsat) constellations may have in encouraging/enabling efficient approaches to advancing Earth System Science and applications development for societal benefit.

The CSDA program was initiated in 2017 with the Private-Sector Small Constellation Satellite Data Product Pilot Project.

Strategic Objectives

NASA’s ESD will continuously monitor the commercial smallsat industry and acquire relevant data to complement NASA's Earth observation data. Data that are favorably evaluated and deemed of sufficient value will be purchased by NASA for broader sustained use. To facilitate standard scientific collaborations, NASA will seek end-user license agreements (EULAs) to enable broad levels of dissemination and shareability of the commercial data with U.S. Government agencies and partners. NASA will maintain an archive of the data acquired from the vendors.

Establish continuous and repeatable processes to on-ramp new commercial data vendors and evaluate data for their potential to advance NASA’s Earth science research and applications activities.

Ensure long-term data preservation through the establishment of data management processes and systems to support rapid evaluation, access, and distribution of purchased data and long-term access for scientific reproducibility.

Enable the sustained use of purchased data for broader use and dissemination by the Earth scientific community.

Coordinate with other U.S. Government agencies and international partners on the evaluation and scientific use of commercial data.


The scientific community may use commercial datasets that are acquired by NASA for scientific purposes in adherence to vendor-specific terms and conditions. All data requests must be approved by CSDA via submitting the authorization request form. Once verified, the user will be provided with additional information on how to request and access data.


Current information about vendors, user licenses, and available data can be found in the vendor section below. As additional commercial small satellite datasets are evaluated and acquired, those datasets will also be made available.




Planet has successfully launched more than 500 satellites and currently operates approximately 200 Dove satellites and 21 SkySat satellites. Planet downlinks more than 300 million km2 of optical imagery daily. Credit: Includes copyrighted material of Planet Labs PBC. All rights reserved.


Spire designs, builds, and operates a growing constellation of more than 120 3U CubeSat Low Earth Multi-Use Receiver (LEMUR) satellites equipped with multi-use radio frequency (RF) sensors that collect radio occultation and reflectometry data. Credit: Includes copyrighted material of Spire Global. All rights reserved.


The Maxar (formerly DigitalGlobe) constellation of high-resolution optical satellites offers unrivaled accuracy, agility, and collection capacity, imaging more of the world in the finest level of detail. Credit: ©2005 Maxar

Teledyne Brown Engineering

Teledyne Brown Engineering operates the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR’s) Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer (DESIS), a pushbroom hyperspectral sensor installed on the Multi-User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES) platform mounted on the International Space Station. Credit: Includes copyrighted material of Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

The Polar Geospatial Center

The Polar Geospatial Center (PGC) at the University of Minnesota produces high-resolution, digital elevation models (DEMs) of select areas of Earth’s land masses. The PGC is not a vendor, but, rather, a CSDA partner in providing these data. Credit: DEM(s) created by the Polar Geospatial Center from Maxar imagery

Airbus U.S.

Evaluation is complete; only the data acquired during the evaluation are currently available. Airbus U.S. provides a comprehensive catalog of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) Earth observation products from their TerraSAR-X, TanDEM-X, and PAZ X-band radar satellites. Credit: Includes copyrighted material of Airbus U.S. All rights reserved.



Vendor On-ramp and Evaluation

NASA’s ESD has established a formal process for identifying commercial smallsat vendors for on-ramp and evaluation. This process involves Request For Proposals (RFPs) followed by an independent NASA evaluation of selected commercial data products.

As necessary, NASA ESD will perform market research to assess the development of Earth science commercial data products and market growth across the industry. If warranted, RFPs will be issued to on-ramp additional vendors as the industry emerges with new candidates and capabilities.

Vendors meeting the minimum qualifications could submit a RFP so that NASA can evaluate the data to determine their suitability for advancing NASA’s science and application goals. All RFPs and contracts contain standardized scientific use EULAs to avoid confusion for users about how the data can be used. The CSDA Final Request for Proposal (RFP) was posted March 21, 2023.

Data products from selected vendors are evaluated by teams of principal investigators (PIs) selected by the ESD. Evaluation criteria include:

  • Accessibility of data
  • Completeness and accuracy of metadata
  • User support services provided by the commercial entity
  • Usefulness of submitted data for science and applications

The evaluation results are summarized and distributed to ESD senior management. NASA uses the summary evaluation report, individual PI reports, and other information to determine the suitability of data from each vendor for future procurement.

More details on the data evaluations are available on the Smallsat Data Evaluation page. All data purchased during the evaluation phase are preserved for long-term use by the scientific community in accordance with the EULA.

Ongoing CSDA Program Activities

CSDA continually reaches out to the scientific community via science meetings, workshops, and conference presentations to increase interest in the program and learn how researchers are using the commercial data. Read publications by NASA-funded researchers to see how CSDA-acquired commercial Earth science data are being used.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

NASA-acquired commercial smallsat data distributed by CSDA have guidelines for their use. For general information about who is considered a NASA-funded or U.S. Government-funded researcher, commercial data available for download, the approval process for access to commercial data, and much more, please see the extensive CSDA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

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