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IKONOS: The Pioneer of Commercial Space Imaging

ikonos satellite

IKONOS Satellite Imagery

IKONOS (Greek for image) was one of the first commercial satellites to serve imagery to the public.

In 2000, it was a big upgrade with blue, green, red, and near-infrared (NIR) at 4-meter resolution.

In addition, it collected 1-meter panchromatic images and stereo imagery. As you may know, photogrammetrists use stereo imagery to develop digital elevation models (DEMs).

We explain everything you need to know about this satellite.

IKONOS Band Specifications

IKONOS multispectral imagery consists of blue, green, red, and near-infrared (NIR) bands at 4-meter resolution. Also, it collects 1-meter panchromatic images. It can obtain a 1:10,000 scale mapping without ground control and a 1:2400 scale with ground control points.

Because it has a sun-synchronous orbit, it can provide coverage of the whole globe. Since it offers both nadir and off-nadir modes, revisit times vary from 3-5 days (off-nadir) and 144 days (nadir).

Each scene size is 11 km × 11 km. Although it collects data at 11-bit sensitivity, data delivery is in 16-bit (0–65535).

BandResolutionCentral WavelengthDescription
Pan0.8 m450-900 nmPanchromatic
B14 m445-516 nmBlue
B24 m506-595 nmGreen
B34 m632-698 nmRed
B44 m757-853 nmNear Infrared (NIR)

IKONOS: A Remarkable History

IKONOS served as one of the first commercial satellites to deliver imagery from space. In the beginning, engineers planned to have a pair of satellites (IKONOS-2). They planned them to be exact replicas of each other.

ikonos satellite

However, IKONOS-1 didn’t succeed in even making it to space. IKONOS-2 was successful in 2000 and they renamed it simply IKONOS.

Space Imaging and NASA explored the whole concept of commercial satellite imagery. After this stage, the concept was followed by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Eventually, Orbimage acquired it in 2006. Shortly after, DigitalGlobe took over the satellite, which is now owned by MDA (Maxar). To say the least, this satellite has seen a high turnaround.

READ MORE: The Big Satellite List. 50 Satellites. 30 Words or Less.


For its time, it was a significant development in the history of the space age.

Altogether, it paved the way for other commercial satellites. With this in mind, it began a new era of Earth intelligence from space.

This satellite provides panchromatic, natural color, color infrared, and stereo images. In particular, this is useful for cartographic, photogrammetric, and various remote sensing applications.

You can download free samples of imagery from the USGS Earth Explorer. If you’re looking for archived imagery, Maxar is your best option.

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