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Remote sensing images offer a large amount of information but require on-board compression because of the storage and transmission constraints of on-board equipment. JPEG2000 is too complex to become a recommended standard for the mission, and CCSDS-IDC fixes most of the parameters and only provides quality scalability. In this paper, we present a new, low-complexity, low-memory, and efficient embedded wavelet image codec for on-board compression. First, we propose the binary tree as a novel and robust way of coding remote sensing image in wavelet domain. Second, we develop an adaptive scanning order to traverse the binary tree level by level from the bottom to the top, so that better performance and visual effect are attained. Last, the proposed method is processed with a scan-based mode, which significantly reduces the memory requirement. The proposed method is very fast because it does not use any entropy coding and rate-distortion optimization, while it provides quality, position, and resolution scalability. Being less complex, it is very easy to implement in hardware and very suitable for on-board compression. Experimental results show that the proposed method can significantly improve peak signal-to-noise ratio compared with SPIHT without arithmetic coding and scan-based CCSDS-IDC, and is similar to scan-based JPEG2000.