The CCSDS Lossless Data
Compression Recommendation
for Space Applications 1
In the late 1980s, when the author started working at the Goddard Space Flight Center for the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), several scientists were in the process
of formulating the next generation of Earth-viewing science instruments, such as the Moderate
Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. The instrument would have over 30 spectral bands and
would transmit an enormous amount of data through the communications channel. In an attempt
to solve the problem associated with buffering a large amount of data on board and transmitting
it to ground stations, the author was assigned the task of investigating lossless compression
algorithms for space implementation to compress science data in order to reduce the requirement
on bandwidth and storage.
Space-based algorithm implementations face extra constraints relative to ground-based imple-
mentations. The difference is mainly to the lack of computing resources in space and possible
bit errors incurred in the communication channel. A spacecraft is a physically compact environ-
ment where each subsystem (power, attitude control, instrument, data handling, telemetry, etc.)
is given only limited budget in terms of power, mass, and weight. Any computation other than
that which is absolutely necessary is normally not supported. Taking all these constraints into
consideration, a set of requirements was first formulated for selecting a lossless compression
a. The algorithm must adapt to changes in data statistics in order to maximize compression
b. The algorithm must be implemented in real time with small memory and little power usage.
1 Author's note: Part of the material from this chapter is taken from the Consultative Committee for Space Data
Systems (CCSDS) publications [ 1, 2] for which the author is a major contributor.
Copyright 2003, Elsevier Science (USA). 3 1 1
All rights reserved.

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