National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) was established as a registered society on 2nd September 1974 by Department of Science & Technology, based on a Union Cabinet approval dated December 13, 1973. The objective of organisation being undertaking and facilitating remote sensing activities in the country. Since the initial emphasis was on aerial surveys, NRSA took over the works and functions of Research Flight Facility of the Ministry of Defence. The NRSA Society's governing body was chaired by none other than the then Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. NRSA started functioning from hired premises in Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh from mid April 1975.

As per the instructions of Govt of Andhra Pradesh, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) transferred 25 acres of land to NRSC during January 1976 and a master plan to construct essential buildings evolved. Indian Photo Interpretation Institute (IPI) of Survey of India, Dehra Dun under the Department of Science and Technology was merged with NRSA in 1977.

As per the MOU signed between India and USA authorizing and setting up of an earth station to receive earth resources data directly from the Landsat series of satellite launched by NASA. During 1977-78, the Govt of Andhra Pradesh allotted 316 acres of land near Shadnagar, south of Hyderabad and by 1st January 1980 the earth station was declared operational. With that NRSA established the first operational satellite data reception facility in the country.

NRSA was transferred from DST to new created Department of Space in 1980 as an autonomous centre. Indian Photo-interpretation Institute was renamed as Indian Institute of Remote Sensing in 1983. On 1st November 1995, the UN affliliated Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTE-AP) was created and hosted at Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), Dehradun. On September 1, 2008 NRSA was converted from a autonomous organisation to a fully Government organisation under ISRO and renamed National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC).

IIRS was made as independent unit under Management Council on April 30, 2011 and thus ceased to be a part of NRSC. During December, 2009 Regional Remote Sensing Service Centres located at Dehradun, Kolkata, Jodhpur, Nagpur and Bengaluru were amalgamated with NRSC and renamed as Regional Remote Sensing Centres. Regional Remote Sensing Centre, Dehradun was merged with Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), Dehradun by November 1, 2011.