Accessing Earth Observation data through
Decentralized Satellite Applications (DSA)

Published in
4 min readJan 4


Despite great strides in space technology, we still cannot make the most of space data and services. One of the reasons is the challenges in accessing spatial resources like the Earth Observation (EO) data.

Modern E-commerce logics have not yet been introduced to EO. And for online platforms, registration procedures can be challenging. Take for example the retrieval of satellite imagery.

First, one has to scour a gazillion websites to find providers selling data of a specific time, location and resolution. Then a formal data request is sent to the selected data provider/reseller. After that, they quote a price and have a contract signed before delivering the data. It often takes weeks before one can finally get the required data.

While acquiring the data is time-consuming, processing it is even more challenging. For example, analysis of the EO data requires one to be well-versed with particular algorithms or analysis tools (software). Also, this process is susceptible to software and human errors.

Need for DSA (Decentralized Satellite Applications)

There is an implicit need for an innovative digital interface between satellite data providers and users to expedite data acquisition and uncomplicate analysis. SpaceChain decided to suffice it by establishing the DSA. SpaceChain’s DSA is a platform that conjoins multiple data and algorithm providers to create a one-stop marketplace for EO data and services. Equipped with blockchain technology, DSA offers easy and direct access to satellite data/applications. Some of its attributes are as follows:

  • Handy interface — lets users select and acquire data from multiple sources in one place. Users with little or no understanding of analysis tools can analyse the data.
  • Transparent ledgers — allow users to view the records of the system operation.
  • Open-source platform — lets engineers and individual developers contribute.
  • Blockchain-based payment portal — establishes transparency and a financial flow between the EO and blockchain industries.
  • Clear endpoints — enable integration of EO data and algorithms from a third party.
  • Token/Digital currency rewards — encourage various vendors to load the platform with data and algorithms.

Process flow for accessing space data and services

The customer first launches the DSA platform to access space data and services and searches for the area of interest on the satellite map view. Subsequently, the customer specifies the location and time of interest. The platform then returns the available EO image provider that satisfies the requirements.

Once the customer selects the desired EO image, the platform returns the price and image parameters. Next, the customer chooses the algorithm from the list, which simultaneously calculates the price. Also, a description of the algorithm is shown to indicate its usage. The algorithm defines the size (scale) of each satellite image. Finally, the customer previews the selected image before and after the algorithm is applied and then downloads the image after payment. The image and algorithm providers receive payments from the customer once the transaction is confirmed on the blockchain.

The above diagram illustrates the process flow between the user and the DSA platform to acquire satellite data.

Process flow for DSI users

DSI users can issue orders or requests to the DSA platform to retrieve space data.

To issue an order, it is a must that the spacecraft has an integrated open-source blockchain payload with connections checked. The process begins with the user launching the DSA platform and finding the available data and services from the spacecraft. Next, when the order is placed, the satellite provider verifies if the request is from a valid blockchain address. Finally, the user pays for the order and receives the ordered data once it is processed.

The service-ordering process

Another way to retrieve data is via service bidding, where DSI users issue requests to the DSA platform and the spacecraft/satellite operators bid for the requests. At first, the user launches the DSA platform. Then the user posts a request to the DSA platform, including details like the desired date, time, and geoinformation of the satellite dataset and services. The spacecraft/satellite operators get notified as soon as the requirements are published on the platform. After that, they bid for the order via a smart contract. Next, the users select the service from a spacecraft and pay for the order. Finally, the user receives the ordered data once it is processed.

The service-bidding process

EO data is indispensable for weather forecasting, biodiversity monitoring, disaster risk management and several other operations. Since the data is crucial for numerous applications, ensuring its accessibility becomes vital. As described above, DSA will make data retrieval and analysis hassle-free. To sum up, DSA will ensure that EO data is used to the fullest capacity for the larger good.

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