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World Wind

World Wind

World Wind is an open source (released under the NOSA license) virtual globe initially developed by NASA's Learning Technologies project. World Wind allows any user to zoom from outer space into any place on Earth. World Wind uses satellite imagery and elevation data to allow users to experience Earth terrain in visually rich 3D, just as if they were really there. Virtually visit anyplace in the world. Look across the Andes, into the Grand Canyon, over the Alps or along the African Sahara.

The program overlays NASA and USGS satellite imagery, aerial photography, topographic maps, Keyhole Markup Language (KML) and Collada files. Organizations across the world use World Wind to monitor weather patterns, visualize cities and terrain, track the movement of planes, vehicles and ships, analyze geospatial data, and educate people about the Earth.

World Wind is different from a 3D globe like Google Earth because it is not a completed application targeted at end users.  Instead, it is an SDK (software development kit) that software engineers can use to build their own applications.  World Wind provides a geographic rendering engine for powering a wide range of projects, from satellite tracking systems to flight simulators.

 World Wind 2.0

Free to download


NASA Open Source Agreement v1.3

NASA Ames Research Center


System Requirements
Graphics card: 3D video card
Java Runtime Environment

Support:, Wiki, Users Guide, FAQ, Forums, Bull's Rambles

Selected Reviews:

Features include:

  • Worlds:
    • Earth, Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and SDSS (the sky with stars and galaxies)
  • Imagery:
    • Blue Marble Next Generation - a true-color image of the entire Earth
    • Landsat - a collection of images from 199-2003 at 15m per pixel resolution
    • USGS - United States Geological Survey data
    • ZoomIt - includes additional areas of high resolution imagery
  • High-performance 3D Virtual globe API and SDK
  • Adds geographic visualization to any application
  • Runs in web pages
  • Free run-time and development license
  • Unencumbered use on any number of devices
  • Huge collection of high-resolution imagery and terrain from NASA servers
  • Displays high-resolution imagery, terrain and geographic information from any open-standard public or private source
  • Open-standard interfaces to GIS services and databases
  • Large collection of geometric and geographic shapes
  • Simple to extend and modify, designed to be extensible
  • Uses Java and OpenGL
  • WMS web server for serving data over private networks and distributing your own data
  • Graphics capabilities:
    • Point, Line, Path, Polygon, Curtain
    • Volumes: Extruded Polygon, Ellipsoid, Sphere, Cylinder, Cone, Pyramid, Box, Airspaces (see below)
    • Terrain conforming shapes: Lines, Polygons, Ellipse, Circle, Quadrilateral, Rectangle, Square, Text, Image, Icon
    • Airspaces: Box, Cake, Capped Cylinder (full and partial), Curtain, Orbit, PolyArc, Polygon, Route, Sphere, Track
    • Annotation: Text, Text Balloon, HTML5 web-browser Balloon, Image, Icons, all with geo-located and screen versions
    • Placenames, Political boundaries
    • 2.5D “Flat Globe” with terrain
    • Transparency
    • Picking, Selection
    • Navigation and Viewing: Orbit View, First Person, Stereo, application-defined
    • Multiple World Wind windows
    • Interactive shape editor
  • Analysis:
    • Measurement,  geometric and terrain following
    • Line of site with high-resolution terrain and shapes
    • Terrain intersection
    • Shape interactions
  • Formats:
    • Imagery: JPG, PNG, GeoTIFF, JPEG2000 and many others
    • Government formats: NITF, MrSID, RPF (CADRG, CIB, etc.), DTED and many others
    • GIS formats: Shapefile, KML, VPF, GML, GeoJSON, GeoRSS, GPX, NMEA and many others
    • Coordinate Systems: Lat/Lon, UTM, MGRS.
      • Datums: WGS84, NAD27 and many others
  • Deploy as Java Application, Java Applet or Java Web Start Application
  • GIS web service protocols: WMS, WFS
  • Swing, AWT and JOGL integration
  • Layer model with visibility and transparency control
  • Highly configurable and customizable
  • Automatic image and terrain retrieval from web services
  • Animation: View, globe, object
  • Local data cache
  • Automatic region sorting
  • Over 100 programming examples
  • Plug-ins for GPS devices
    • GPS Tracker
    • GPS2WorldWind
    • GPS
  • API documentation

World Wind in action

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Last Updated Monday, November 10 2014 @ 02:27 PM EST

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