I posted this inquiry in the grass-user list.

JAXA is providing free access to PALSAR 50m Orthorectified K & C Mosaic. According to the website, data are provided in:

Data files (Raw format) and image files (PNG format)

However, I can't get GDAL to access the data (Raw format). I've tested other sample PALSAR data and GDAL can easily access them using the PALSAR driver

I'm looking for open source apps that can read and export this data to the more common raster formats like geotiff, etc.

The header file is described in this pdf: http://www.eorc.jaxa.jp/ALOS/en/kc_mosaic/map/PALSAR_MSC_dsc.pdf

UPDATE: I found a non-foss application that can directly read the kc_mosaic format. It is called MapReady developed by the Alaska Satellite Facility. It can convert to various image format including geotiff.

Another tool is the Next ESA SAR Toolbox (NEST). However testing with NEST4C-1.1, the data format is not recognized.

3 Answers 3


Not sure if the below is suitable. It's free (but not opensource as far as I can tell):


It supports

ALOS PALSAR: dual pol and quad pol (level 1.1 and 1.5 - JAXA CEOS and ERSDAC-Vexcel)

It includes a tool to:

Create BMP files from binary data (modulus, phase, real part, imaginary part) with different colourmaps (grey, jet, hsv);

From bitmap you can then convert to anything.

You could also send an mail to the GDAL list - http://lists.osgeo.org/mailman/listinfo/gdal-dev

  • geographika, Thank you for the link, I will surely try them out. According to the link, it can read PLR 1.1 to 1.5 which GDAL already does.
    – maning
    Mar 11, 2011 at 8:56
  • PolSARpro is open source.
    – Benjamin
    Mar 15, 2011 at 15:23
  • geographika, I believe I sent this inquiry to gdal-devs already.
    – maning
    Mar 16, 2011 at 12:04

The files are not in the typical PALSAR format expected and described by GDAL (or PolSARPro) which should contains a leader file (LED-xxxxxxxxxxxx-xx.x__x), a trailer file (TRL-SCENE_ID-PRODUCT_ID) and the Image files (IMG-HH-SCENE_ID-PRODUCT_ID, IMG-HV-SCENE_ID-PRODUCT_ID).

I see on the site you listed that they call it "Header file format for mosaic product", which leads me to believe they formatted that product differently than raw imagery, with a _HDR file and an _IMG file for each band.

I downloaded a tile 11 (HH, HV) for North Africa tile from the ftp you listed. I can open in PCI Geomatic directly, using a driver it calls APR (ALOS/PALSAR Mosaic Raw Image). So far, I haven't been able to open them in PolSARPro, even through the raw binary import tool.

  • did you try gdalinfo VOL-ALPSR000000000-P1.5_UA (or VOL-ALPSR000000000-P1.1__A ... you need to select the volume directory file)
    – Mike T
    Mar 15, 2011 at 18:15
  • Euh, yup, that is what I said... :)
    – Benjamin
    Mar 15, 2011 at 18:34

Good old GRASS GIS' r.in.bin easily reads the data. It requires various parameters such as the extent (NSEW), number of rows and columns, and the number of bytes per cell. All these information are in the provided .hdr text file.

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