11 Space APIs, Because Space is Neat

Space travel has become a routine fact of life in the modern age, as strange as that may sound. While many reading this may have grown up when launches were few and far between, 2021 has several major companies funding exploration and development in space and aeronautics.

One of the coolest outcomes of this is the presence of so many awesome space APIs. Today, we’re going to look at 11 of the coolest currently usable APIs. While these are in no particular order in terms of quality, they do progress roughly from most simple to the most complex.

1. People in Space Right Now

Developer: Natronics
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Limited Purpose

This API is the simplest on this list, as it really only does one thing — it delivers the number of people currently in space. Additionally, the API returns the names and spacecraft related to those people, if the data is known. This API takes no inputs and really facilitates this one function. Nonetheless, it’s pretty cool to get this information on-demand, and the API can be leveraged in combination with other APIs to get a holistic view of current efforts in space exploration and habitation.

2. Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) Microservice

Developer: NASA
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Limited Purpose

The Astronomy Picture of the Day microservice does precisely what it says on the tin: it delivers a unique astronomy picture every single day. What might be surprising to learn is that the website which serves as the base frontend to display the output of the API, Astronomy Picture of the Day, was for many years one of the most popular websites in across all United States Federal Agencies. The APOD API has a single endpoint — /<version>/apod — which returns the picture of the day. While there are a variety of parameters noted in the documentation which allow some functional retrieval per date or date ranges, the API is rather simple by design and is a delight for any space fan.

3. Where the ISS at? REST API

Developer: Linzig
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Limited Purpose

This API, called WTIA for short, is quite simple, but very, very cool. In essence, all this API does is serve location data for the International Space Station, either current, past, or future (predicted). While this seems quite simple, the ability to pinpoint where a space station is in Earth’s orbit is objectively cool; not only that, it’s objectively useful, allowing amateur astronomers to plot the path of the ISS and contextualize it with other celestial objects in the sky.

While this all sounds deceptively simple, we should put this API into its proper context. Being able to track the ISS position to identify it in the sky could help one actually see the space station — a simple but impressive example of modern data possibilities.

4. Open Astronomy Catalog API

Developer: Open Astronomy Catalogs
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Data

The Open Astronomy Catalog API is a combinatory API of the Tidal Disruption, Open Supernova, Kilonova, and East Stars catalogs of astronomical data. These catalogs, when combined, represent an astronomical (pun intended) amount of space data that can be combined, cross-referenced, and explored to inform, contextualize, and discover new events and interactions. The API allows for searching and interacting across all of these catalogs, utilizing arguments to identify the closest values in a set (the “closest” argument), to format the data in a required format (currently .csv or .tsv), and even delineate which telescope the data must be sourced from (the “telescope” argument).

5. Planet Data API

Developer: Planet
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Multimedia/Reference

The main value proposition of Planet, the parent organization behind the Planet Data API, is to image the Earth every single day to present data that enables high-level insights. The Data API is the API endpoint that collates this data and allows the user to call up various images and content according to some parameters and arguments. This data is collected through two imaging constellations — the PlanetScope and RapidEye imaging systems — and is offered through the APIs in a variety of formats.

6. SpaceX Telemetry API

Developer: R4yGM (Using SpaceX Data)
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Data

This API provides complex data around the telemetry and calculations for SpaceX launches. The API offers complex calculation data for figuring out each launch’s downrange locations, the object’s acceleration, vertical and horizontal speed measurements, and a complete analysis of the entire launch. You can invoke additional parameters to get the mission name, the ISA measurement (a measurement of altitude), and other factors.

This API is interesting because it encapsulates the modern age of data insights for space travel. Amateur aeronautics and rocketry fans now have a breadth of data available that were never available in years past — the idea of being able to cross-reference launch and location data for a private space corporation was, until recent years, literally the thing of science fiction.

7. The Solar System OpenData

Developer: The Solar System
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Reference

This API returns information about the planets, moons, and main asteroids as surveyed by the Solar System OpenData project. The API can provide physical characteristics for the objects (including mass, gravity, inclination, dimensions, etc.), their specific orbital parameters, the history behind the bodies (including their discovery data and designations), the known number of such objects, and relevant family data. Data such as escape speed and radius are also provided, allowing for complex modeling of astronomical bodies in our solar system.

8. Mars Photo API

Developer: NASA
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Multimedia

This API collates image data from the various NASA Mars missions, including Perseverance, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Spirit. The data is served from unique databases for each source, with different options available for collecting photos from specific elements of each rover. For instance, the Perseverance endpoint allows for photos from MCZ_RIGHT (the mast camera on the right side), the EDL_RUCAM (the rove up-look camera), and more.

The API results can be filtered by Martian Sol, Earth dates, specific cameras, etc. This is a more complex API than other photo service APIs but allows for a great specificity as to source and intent.

9. openEO API

Developer: openEO
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Reference

openEO API isn’t necessarily a Space API in and of itself — instead, it serves as an API to connect to Earth observation cloud back-ends. The API can be used for various complex interactions and requests. For example, a simple request can be made to query the Copernicus data source to deliver data for a specific location with stated coordinates, resulting in the data served within the specifically limited data area. This can be further filtered and transformed by various parameters.

This API is a great example of a “shim” style API, serving as a layer between a multitude of data sources, allowing for complex interactions to be facilitated with very little data overhead.

10. Amentum Gravity API

Developer: Amentum
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Simulation/Modeling

The Amentum Gravity API offers a highly complex data set focused on gravitational data for the Earth. The gravitational data served from the API allows for calculating anomalies in the Earth’s gravitational field due to various characteristics of Earth itself. As such, the API allows for complex measurements related to the density of locations on Earth (roughly, the geoid height) and the resultant gravitational anomalies for any given latitude and longitude.

While this data is focused chiefly on Earth rather than the space around it, this gravitational anomaly data nonetheless has significant implications for spacefaring, habitation, and localized effects on Earth.

11. Illustris API

Developer: Illustris
Documentation Link: Documentation
Scope: Simulation/Modeling

The Illustris API is certainly space-oriented, but it’s perhaps the highest concept API out of this entire group. The principle behind Illustris is to create a detailed and comprehensive simulation of galaxy formation to drive scientific modeling. The API is provided as an alternate way to access the core service and allows for high data-volume processing, search, extraction, analysis, and visualization.

While the API itself is extremely complex — after all, we’re talking about galactic formation modeling here — it is nonetheless logically assembled around related core functions. For instance, all functions to detect subhalos for an entity are categorized under, you guessed it, the “subhalo” route, with a relatively predictable request paradigm. For this reason, it is highly usable, if complex, and earns a spot as one of the coolest space APIs currently on offer.


Many space APIs are available, some of which have been covered extensively, and others that are just coming into widespread awareness. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does represent some of the best currently operating. What do you think about this list? Are there any we missed that we should cover? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured image: Veil Nebula: Wisps of an Exploded Star
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Z. Levay
Astronomy Picture of the Day, 4/4/2021

The post 11 Space APIs, Because Space is Neat appeared first on Nordic APIs.

Source: Nordic APIs

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