National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive

Submitting Data to the NSSDCA


NSSDCA has two types of customers that submit data:

  • active archives in the space sciences funded through the Science Missions Directorate
  • missions in that same directorate

If the submitter is from one of the first two types, then there is usually an agreement (MOU or PDMP) that constrains the process. Examples of both MOUs and PDMPs are available from NSSDCA.

There is at NSSDCA a staff curation scientist that spans each of the space science disciplines. If you are not aware of any agreements or cannot find your specific agreement, then contact the curation scientist staff or the head of NSSDCA.

Information Required by NSSDCA

There are several categories of information that NSSDCA will want to know about the incoming collection (numeric data, model, or software) to be archived. The curation scientist assigned to the data collection will review the information provided to help ensure that there is sufficient documentation to allow a scientist knowledgable in the field (but unfamiliar with the data collection or the experiment(s) that generated it) to independently make proper use of the data.

The following is the type of information that is needed by NSSDCA to ingest the data being provided.

  • A descriptive title for the collection
  • A description (one to a few paragraphs) to describe the collection
  • The applicable MOU or PDMP, if any
  • The archive service level (see Levels of Archival Storage Service)
  • The primary archive if NSSDCA is not acting as such
  • How the data will be submitted (see Data Transfer), when, what size (kB, MB, etc.), and with what frequency
  • Any identifiers for the collection used by the provider, if any
  • Names and locator information (address, e-mail, phone number) of the data provider, a general contact (if any), and a transfer contact (person who will send the data if other than the provider)
  • Specification of any spacecraft/observatory and/or experiment(s)/instrument(s) that contributed to the collection
  • Any access restrictions
  • Any related collections, whether already archived at NSSDCA or yet to be submitted
  • People and/or institutions to acknowledge for the data (e.g., the Principal Investigator of the experiment, the data provider(s), the flight project, a data system, etc.

Other information may be requested by the curation scientist as needed.

Levels of Archival Storage Service

The long term preservation, dissemination, and availability of data to researchers is specified by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the data provider and the NSSDCA. Once the provider has determined what is to be transmitted, the data provider must decide what level of archival storage is required. The levels of service provided by NSSDCA are shown in the table below.

Permanent Archive Long-term curation of digital data. Data may be repackaged and/or transformed to maintain accessibility and usability. Content information of SIPs is preserved but not necessarily in the original format. AIPs are re-written to new media within ten years. Data that are not currently preserved in AIPs will eventually be migrated from their legacy media into AIPs. The MOU may specify that data access be restricted, e.g., proprietary data or data available through an active archive.
Backup Storage of digital data to support another archive's contingency plan per MOU. Cognizance of data content and format is not required of the NSSDCA. Data may be repackaged and/or reversibly transformed to maintain accessibility. Content information of SIPs is preserved and can be retrieved in the original format. Data access is restricted to the provider or other entities per the MOU.
Analog Archive Preservation of analog data on a variety of media with external review to establish priorities for digitization. Selected retention of original analog data after digitization. Data are copied and disseminated by NSSDCA.

Table 1. Current levels of archival storage service provided by NSSDCA to data providers.

NSSDCA accepts responsibility for the preservation of data once it has been verified that the data objects received from the provider match the provider's description of the objects submitted.

Data Format

NSSDCA ingest can support a variety of data formats. Many data formats can be packaged (encapsulated) with NSSDCA AIPs to streamline the process and ensure intergrity of the data on the provider end. Examples are:

  • FITS (Flexible Image Transport System)
  • CDF (Common Data Format)
  • PDS (Planetary Data System)
  • HDF (Hierarchical Data Format)
  • IDFS (Instrument Data File Set)
  • ASCII with format description
  • Binary with format description

Data Transfer

Data providers need to decide on how their data will be transferred to the NSSDCA. The NSSDCA can receive data as files transferred on:

  • LTO 5, 6;
  • 4 mm and 8 mm tape;
  • CD-ROM/DVD (DVD-5, DVD-9);
  • hard disc/RAID system (SCSI preferred); and,
  • electronic transfer over the internet

A number of native tape formats are supported. The archive tapes are currently LTOS (1 TB capacity). Two copies are written; one for the local jukebox and one for off-site (climate controlled) storage.

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