Astronaut Photography – Your access to stunning views from space

Astronauts have busy schedules in space – system operations, maintenance, repairs, science experiments – but did you know they also acquire hundreds of photos during each mission?

Reid Wiseman , Astronaut Photography

From stunning views of Earth’s natural features to glimpses of your favorite city at night, and from pure artistry to applied science, these photos offer a remarkable perspective of our planet’s surface as well as a valuable historical record of how and where our planet is changing.

There are now two great resources available for viewing this photography:

Both websites provide access to thousands of photos, are free to use, allow users to search photos or browse by category, and even provide options to download images for your own use (but be sure to read through the conditions of use on both websites).

We’ve spent countless hours browsing through these stunning image collections, and encourage you to take a look for yourself.

We hope you enjoy!

Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

“The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth hosts the best and most complete online collection of astronaut photographs of the Earth from 1961 through the present. This service is provided by the International Space Station program and the JSC Earth Science & Remote Sensing Unit, ARES Division, Exploration Integration Science Directorate.” – http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/

Windows on Earth

“Windows on Earth is an educational project that features photographs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station.  Astronauts take hundreds of photos each day, for science research, education and public outreach.  The photos are often dramatic, and help us all appreciate home planet Earth. The site is operated by TERC, an educational non-profit, in collaboration with the Association of Space Explorers (the professional association of flown astronauts and cosmonauts), the Virtual High School, and CASIS (Center for Advancement of Science in Space).” – http://www.windowsonearth.org/

Windows on Earth featured

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High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) – An HD video experiment on the International Space Station

I want to understand our world better. Seeing it from a different angle really helps, and no perspective is more radically different than the one you get when you leave the planet altogether and look back.” – Chris Hadfield, Astronaut

HDEV Earth horizon

What an amazing view it must be for astronauts to gaze down at Earth while in orbit. While there’s certainly nothing like being there in person, and while photos and recorded video provide some indication of the view, now there’s a way to gain your own insight and better experience what the astronauts see while looking out the window.

The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment, which has been active since April 2014, streams live high definition video 24/7 from the International Space Station (ISS) to your computer or mobile device.

HDEV includes four different standard commercial video cameras mounted on the External Payload Facility of the Columbus module on the ISS, one camera facing forward, one pointing straight down, and two facing aft. The objective of the HDEV mission is principally to test the ability and performance of such cameras to operate and survive in the harsh space environment. Results from this experiment will provide an indication of the durability of commercially available cameras for use in future space missions.

But there’s more to this video than just an engineering experiment and an astounding view from space. Such video has both scientific and commercial value with respect to the geospatial information that can be derived from the imagery. In fact, coming soon from technology company Urthecast will be Ultra-HD video from the ISS, with one meter ground resolution, that will be available for viewing and analysis through both free and premium services.

In the meantime, while the HDEV experiment is being conducted, live streaming video from the HDEV cameras is available on Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/iss-hdev-payload

HDEV Ustream video

As an alternative, to simultaneously see the HDEV video in combination with a live map of where the ISS is currently located, visit the HDEV viewing portal at the NASA JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

Also, don’t worry if the video feed is black or not available at first. There’s a periodic lapse in video as HDEV automatically cycles between the different cameras, there’s no video when the ISS is on the night side of the Earth, and sometimes there’s simply a temporary loss of signal.

But the view is worth the wait.

NASA Takes Over Navy Instrument On ISS

A version of this article appears in the May 19 edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology, p. 59, Frank Morring, Jr.

HREP on JEMEFA hyperspectral imager on the International Space Station (ISS) that was developed by the U.S. Navy as an experiment in littoral-warfare support is finding new life as an academic tool under NASA management, and already has drawn some seed money as a pathfinder for commercial Earth observation.

Facing Earth in open space on the Japanese Experiment Module’s porchlike Exposed Facility, the Hyperspectral Imager for Coastal Oceans (HICO) continues to return at least one image a day of near-shore waters with unprecedented spectral and spatial resolution.

HICO was built to provide a low-cost means to study the utility of hyperspectral imaging from orbit in meeting the Navy’s operational needs close to shore. Growing out of its experiences in the Persian Gulf and other shallow-water operations, the Office of Naval Research wanted to evaluate the utility of space-based hyperspectral imagery to characterize littoral waters and conduct bathymetry to track changes over time that could impact operations.

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) developed HICO, which was based on airborne hyperspectral imagery technology and off-the-shelf hardware to hold down costs. HICO was launched Sept. 10, 2009, on a Japanese H-2 transfer vehicle as part of the HICO and RAIDS (Remote Atmospheric and Ionospheric Detection System) Experimental Payloads; it returned its first image two weeks later.

In three years of Navy-funded operations, HICO “exceeded all its goals,” says Mary Kappus, coastal and ocean remote sensing branch head at NRL.

“In the past it was blue ocean stuff, and things have moved more toward interest in the coastal ocean,” she says. “It is a much more difficult environment. In the open ocean, multi-spectral was at least adequate.”

NASA, the U.S. partner on the ISS, took over HICO in January 2013 after Navy funding expired. The Navy also released almost all of the HICO data collected during its three years running the instrument. It has been posted for open access on the HICO website managed by Oregon State University.

While the Navy program was open to most researchers, the principal-investigator approach and the service’s multistep approval process made it laborious to gain access on the HICO instrument.

“[NASA] wanted it opened up, and we had to get permission from the Navy to put the historical data on there,” says Kappus. “So anything we collect now goes on there, and then we ask the Navy for permission to put old data on there. They reviewed [this] and approved releasing most of it.”

Under the new regime NRL still operates the HICO sensor, but through the NASA ISS payload office at Marshall Space Flight Center. This more-direct approach has given users access to more data and, depending on the target’s position relative to the station orbit, a chance to collect two images per day instead of one. Kappus explains that the data buffer on HICO is relatively small, so coordination with the downlink via the Payload Operations Center at Marshall is essential to collecting data before the buffer fills up.

Task orders are worked through the same channels. Presenting an update to HICO users in Silver Spring, Md., on May 7, Kappus said 171 of 332 total “scenes” targeted between Nov. 11, 2013, and March 12 were requested by researchers backed by the NRL and NASA; international researchers comprised the balance.

Data from HICO is posted on NASA’s Ocean Color website, where usage also is tracked. After the U.S., “China is the biggest user” of the website data, Kappus says, followed by Germany, Japan and Russia. The types of data sought, such as seasonal bathymetry that shows changes in the bottom of shallow waters, has remained the same through the transition from Navy to NASA.

“The same kinds of things are relevant for everybody; what is changing in the water,” she says.

HICO offers unprecedented detail from its perch on the ISS, providing 90-meter (295-ft.) resolution across wavelengths of 380-960 nanometers sampled at 5.7 nanometers. Sorting that rich dataset requires sophisticated software, typically custom-made and out of the reach of many users.

To expand the user set for HICO and future Earth-observing sensors on the space station, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, the non-profit set up by NASA to promote the commercial use of U.S. National Laboratory facilities on the ISS, awarded a $150,000 grant to HySpeed Computing, a Miami-based startup, and [Exelis] to demonstrate an online imaging processing system that can rapidly integrate new algorithms.

James Goodman, president/CEO of HySpeed, says the idea is to build a commercial way for users to process HICO data for their own needs at the same place online that they get it.

“Ideally a copy of this will [be] on the Oregon State server where the data resides,” Goodman says. “As a HICO user you would come in and say ‘I want to use this data, and I want to run this process.’ So you don’t need your own customized remote-sensing software. It expands it well beyond the research crowd that has invested in high-end remote-sensing software. It can be any-level user who has a web browser.”

Science and Innovation on the International Space Station – 2014 ISS R&D Conference

ISS R&D 2014 logoDiscoveries, Applications and Opportunities” was the theme of the 3rd annual International Space Station Research and Development (ISS R&D) conference, held in Chicago, IL from 17-19 June 2014.

From life sciences and biotechnology to physical sciences and Earth observation, the breadth of topics discussed at this conference was inspiring. The ISS represents a truly remarkable orbiting platform for performing unique scientific research, promoting education opportunities, and developing applications and products that benefit life here on Earth.

Additionally, with the recent focus on commercialization of space, entrepreneurs and innovators now have greater access than ever before to utilize the unique capabilities the ISS has to offer. In 2005, the U.S. portion of the ISS was designated a national laboratory, which included a specific directive to expand its utilization amongst both government and private entities alike. To help accomplish this objective, in 2011, NASA selected the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage and maximize use of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.

“By carefully selecting research and funding projects, by connecting investors looking for opportunity to scientists with great ideas, and by making access to the station faster and easier, CASIS will drive scientific inquiry toward developing groundbreaking new technologies and products that will tangibly affect our lives.” (www.iss-casis.org)

Example case studies of entrepreneurship on the ISS presented at the conference included, among others: D-Orbit, a company focused on reducing the proliferation of space debris; Benevolent Technologies, a healthcare company developing custom fit prosthetics using remold-able material; Kentucky Space, a non-profit consortium supporting medical and other research projects in microgravity; and Zero Gravity Solutions, a company that has developed a micronutrient delivery system allowing plants to absorb specific minerals and nutrients.

Also presented at the conference were various sensor systems and instrumentation capabilities utilizing the ISS as a platform for Earth observation. For example, representatives from NanoRacks, PlanetLabs, Urthecast and Teledyne Brown Engineering participating in a panel discussion on why their companies selected the ISS and what their vision is for the future of remote sensing from the ISS. Other conference sessions on Earth observation included:

  • a smartphone app from the Environmental Protection Agency for monitoring water quality;
  • a web-enabled image processing system developed by HySpeed Computing;
  • sensor characteristics, data availability and image applications using ISERV Pathfinder, ISS-IMAP, ISS Agricultural Camera and RapidScat; and
  • participation of ISS in image collection for disaster response.

As another focus, beyond today’s current ISS capabilities, and even beyond the limits of Earth itself, the conference also included a plenary session devoted to how the ISS is being used for technology and human health research as a pathway to Mars exploration. And another plenary session, which included representatives from Orbital Sciences Corporation, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Boeing, and Blue Origin, provided an overview of “getting there and back” – highlighting the latest developments in commercial vehicles for human spaceflight.

There is truly an incredible amount of science being conducted more than 300 km above our heads. The above are but a few of the many exceptional presentations, which also included talks by Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting and NASA Astronauts Greg Johnson, Nicole Stott and John Grunsfeld.

To attend or participate in next year’s conference, which will take place 7-9 July 2015 in Boston, MA, just visit www.astronautical.org. The call for papers will be released in September 2014. See you there!

Hyperspectral Imaging from the ISS – Highlights from the 2014 HICO Data Users Meeting

The annual HICO Data Users Meeting was recently held in Washington, D.C. from 7-8 May 2014. This meeting was an opportunity for the HICO science community to exchange ideas, present research accomplishments, showcase applications, and discuss hyperspectral image processing techniques. With more than a dozen presentations and ample discussion throughout, it was an insightful and very informative meeting.

HREP-HICO

The HICO and RAIDS Experiment Payload installed on the Japanese Experiment Module (credit: NASA)

Highlights from 2104 HICO Data Users Meeting include:

  • Mary Kappus (Naval Research Laboratory) summarized the status of the HICO mission, including an overview of current instrument and data management operations. Notable upcoming milestones include the 5 year anniversary of HICO in September 2014 and the acquisition of HICO’s 10,000th scene – impressive achievements for a sensor that began as just a technology demonstration.
  • Jasmine Nahorniak (Oregon State University) presented an overview of the OSU HICO website, which provides a comprehensive database of HICO sensor information and data characteristics. The website also includes resources for searching and downloading data from the OSU HICO archives, visualizing orbit and target locations in Google Earth, and an online tool (currently in beta testing) for performing atmospheric correction using tafkaa_6s.
  • Sean Bailey (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) outlined the HICO data distribution and image processing capabilities at NASA. HICO support was initially added to SeaDAS in April 2013, with data distribution beginning in July 2013. In less than a year, as of February 2014, NASA has distributed 4375 HICO scenes to users in 25 different countries. NASA is also planning to soon incorporate additional processing capabilities in SeaDAS to generate HICO ocean color products.
  • With respect to HICO applications: Lachlan McKinna (NASA GSFC) presented a project using time series analysis to detect bathymetry changes in Shark Bay, Western Australia; Marie Smith (University of Cape Town) described a chlorophyll study in Saldanha Bay, South Africa; Darryl Keith (US EPA) discussed the use of HICO for monitoring coastal water quality; Wes Moses (NRL) summarized HICO capabilities for retrieving estimates of bathymetry, bottom type, surface velocity and chlorophyll; and Curtiss Davis (OSU) presented HICO applications for assessing rivers, river plumes, lakes and estuaries.
  • In terms of image processing techniques, Marcos Montes (NRL) summarized the requirements and techniques for improved geolocation, ZhongPing Lee (UMass Boston) presented a methodology for atmospheric correction using cloud shadows, and Curtiss Davis (OSU) discussed various aspects of calibration and atmospheric correction.
  • James Goodman (HySpeed Computing) presented an overview of the functionality and capabilities of the HICO Online Processing Tool, a prototype web-enabled, scalable, geospatial data processing system based on the ENVI Services Engine. The tool is scheduled for release later this year, at which time it will be openly available to the science community for testing and evaluation.

Interested in more information? The meeting agenda and copies of presentations are provided on the OSU HICO website.

About HICO (http://hico.coas.oregonstate.edu/): “The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO™) is an imaging spectrometer based on the PHILLS airborne imaging spectrometers. HICO is the first spaceborne imaging spectrometer designed to sample the coastal ocean. HICO samples selected coastal regions at 90 m with full spectral coverage (380 to 960 nm sampled at 5.7 nm) and a very high signal-to-noise ratio to resolve the complexity of the coastal ocean. HICO demonstrates coastal products including water clarity, bottom types, bathymetry and on-shore vegetation maps. Each year HICO collects approximately 2000 scenes from around the world. The current focus is on providing HICO data for scientific research on coastal zones and other regions around the world. To that end we have developed this website and we will make data available to registered HICO Data Users who wish to work with us as a team to exploit these data.”

Visualizing HICO Ground Tracks Using Google Earth – A useful tool for project planning

Do you work with HICO imagery? Are you planning a project using HICO? Or perhaps you’re just interested in exploring where HICO will be acquiring imagery in the coming days?

If so, be sure to check out the ISS Orbit tool on the HICO website at Oregon State University. This tool allows you to interactively visualize the location of HICO ground track locations using Google Earth.

HICO ISS Orbit tool

The tool shows predicted HICO ground tracks in selected 1- or 3-day intervals up to six months in the future. However, even though orbital files are updated regularly, because of uncertainties in future ISS orbit specifics, the prediction is most accurate 2-3 days into the future and declines thereafter. So be cautious when planning fieldwork or image acquisitions for any extended time period.

For more information on ISS orbits characteristics, visit the NASA Space Station Orbit tutorial.

The ground tracks are displayed only for local daylight hours, and illustrate the nominal ground track (shown in teal above) as well as the full width available using HICO’s pointing capabilities (shown in grey above). Users have the option of also displaying the place names and locations of scheduled target areas for both ascending and descending orbits. Additionally, as the zoom level is increased, yellow dots appear in the visualization indicating the predicted time and date the ISS will pass over that location.

The HICO ISS Orbit tool requires the Google Earth plugin, which is available in Chrome, Firefox and IE (note that IE users may need to add the oregonstate.edu website to Compatibility View in the tool settings).

Let’s look at an example. Say you’re interested in exploring when HICO will be available to acquire imagery of Melbourne Harbor from April 5-11. Using the tool to step through the ISS orbits for those dates, it is revealed that Melbourne Harbor can be acquired on April 5 @ 22:26 and 5:45 GMT, April 6 @ 4:56 GMT and April 9 @ 4:05.

HICO Melbourne Harbor 040514

ISS Orbit tool: HICO – Melbourne Harbor 5-April-2014

HICO Melbourne Harbor 040614

ISS Orbit tool: HICO – Melbourne Harbor 6-April-2014

HICO Melbourne Harbor 040914

ISS Orbit tool: HICO – Melbourne Harbor 9-April-2014

Now let’s extend this example to see if Hyperion data is also available for Melbourne Harbor for the same dates. To do so, you will need to utilize COVE, a similar tool (best in Chrome or Firefox) with robust capabilities for visualizing ground tracks of numerous Earth observing satellites (but unfortunately not HICO or any other instruments on the ISS). Visit our earlier post for an overview of COVE’s capabilities.

Using COVE, it can be seen that Hyperion data is available for acquisition of Melbourne Harbor on April 9 @ 23:16 GMT. This closely coincident acquisition opportunity might provide some interesting data for comparing hyperspectral analysis techniques using HICO and Hyperion.

Hyperion Melbourne Harbor 040914

COVE tool: Hyperion – Melbourne Harbor 5-April-2014

So be sure to check out both the COVE and HICO ISS Orbit tools when planning your next mission.

HICO ISS Orbit tool: http://hico.coas.oregonstate.edu/orbit/orbit.php

COVE: http://www.ceos-cove.org/

About HICO (http://hico.coas.oregonstate.edu/): “The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO™) is an imaging spectrometer based on the PHILLS airborne imaging spectrometers. HICO is the first spaceborne imaging spectrometer designed to sample the coastal ocean. HICO samples selected coastal regions at 90 m with full spectral coverage (380 to 960 nm sampled at 5.7 nm) and a very high signal-to-noise ratio to resolve the complexity of the coastal ocean. HICO demonstrates coastal products including water clarity, bottom types, bathymetry and on-shore vegetation maps. Each year HICO collects approximately 2000 scenes from around the world. The current focus is on providing HICO data for scientific research on coastal zones and other regions around the world. To that end we have developed this website and we will make data available to registered HICO Data Users who wish to work with us as a team to exploit these data.”

About Hyperion (http://eo1.gsfc.nasa.gov/ and http://eo1.usgs.gov/): “The Hyperion instrument provides a new class of Earth observation data for improved Earth surface characterization. The Hyperion provides a science grade instrument with quality calibration based on heritage from the LEWIS Hyperspectral Imaging Instrument (HSI). The Hyperion capabilities provide resolution of surface properties into hundreds of spectral bands versus the ten multispectral bands flown on traditional Landsat imaging missions. Through these spectral bands, complex land eco-systems can be imaged and accurately classified.The Hyperion provides a high resolution hyperspectral imager capable of resolving 220 spectral bands [from 400 to 2500 nm] with a 30-meter resolution. The instrument can image a 7.5 km by 100 km land area per image, and provide detailed spectral mapping across all 220 channels with high radiometric accuracy.”

Important Update for Landsat 8 – Reprocessing of entire archive scheduled to begin Feb 3

Starting today, Feb 3, 2014, the USGS will remove all Landsat 8 scenes from the online cache and reprocess the entire archive using updated calibration parameters.

Landsat 8

Artist’s rendition of Landsat 8 (NASA/GSFC Conceptual Image Lab)

The reprocessing will begin with the most recent acquisitions and then progress backwards to the beginning of the Landsat 8 mission. The entire reprocessing exercise is expected to take 50 days; however, scenes will also be available for reprocessing through on-demand product orders.

Rest assured, both the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) on Landsat 8 are operating correctly and producing quality measurements. The reprocessing is being undertaken to implement improvements in the calibration parameters, taking advantage of “radiometric and geometric refinements” that have been identified since launch, to “ensure good calibration and data continuity.”

The USGS states that “Most users will not need to reorder data currently in their local archive; however, users are encouraged to review all Landsat 8 calibration notices and evaluate the improvements as they relate to specific applications.”

“These corrections include all calibration parameter file updates since launch; improved OLI reflectance conversion coefficients for the cirrus band; improved OLI radiance conversion coefficients for all bands; refined OLI detector linearization to decrease striping; a radiometric offset correction for both TIRS bands; and a slight improvement to the geolocation of the TIRS data.”

More specifically, as outlined in the calibration notices:

  • OLI bands 1-8 will have reflectance changes of up to 0.8 percent.
  • OLI cirrus band 9 will have a more substantial reflectance change of about 7 percent.
  • Vertical striping in OLI bands for dark uniform areas, such as water, will be reduced.
  • TIRS offsets will remove about 2.1 K from band 10 and about 4.4 K from band 11.

So if you’re using Landsat 8, be sure to check the reprocessing details to evaluate whether the changes will impact your analysis.

For more info on Landsat: http://landsat.usgs.gov/

Conservation Technology – Mapping our environment using the Carnegie Airborne Observatory

Remote sensing was recently on stage at TEDGlobal 2013, where Greg Asner highlighted how advanced technology can be leveraged for improved conservation of our natural environment.

Asner, a scientist in the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science, believes that “technology is absolutely critical to managing our planet, but even more important is the understanding and wisdom to apply it.”

In his TED talk, Asner illustrates how data acquired from hyperspectral and lidar instruments on the Carnegie Airborne Observatory can be used to generate kaleidoscopic 3D maps of natural ecosystems in unprecedented detail. These maps, which define data layers such as the biodiversity landscape and carbon geography, provide crucial knowledge that is necessary to make more informed conservations decisions.

Greg Asner: Ecology from the air (13:50)

For more information on the Carnegie Airborne Observatory: http://cao.stanford.edu/

One Rocket & 29 Satellites – A new launch record

Minotaur I launch 11.19.2013

ORS-3 Minotaur I launch 11.19.2013 (image: NASA/Chris Perry)

On Nov. 19, in a specular nighttime launch, a U.S. Air Force Minotaur I rocket was launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and into the history books. With 29 satellites onboard, this mission set a new record for total number of satellites launched on a single rocket.

Referred to as the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space Office ORS-3 mission, this launch not only sets a record, but more importantly, is also enabling significant amounts of space and satellite related research to be conducted using the 29 satellites. Appropriately, the Air Force thus also refers to this launch as an enabler mission.

The primary payload onboard the Minotaur I rocket was the U.S. Air Force’s STPSat-3 (Space Test Program Satellite-3), which will support a variety of research experiments related to satellite operations and measuring the space environment. This includes, among others, experiments to characterize the Earth’s ionosphere and thermosphere, measure plasma densities and energies, and monitor total solar incident irradiance, as well as a specialized module to assist with satellite de-orbiting at the conclusion of its operating lifetime.

In addition to the STPSat-3 satellite, the ORS-3 mission included 28 CubeSats contributed by numerous organizations, including NASA, universities, and even a high school. Here’s a list of a few of the different CubeSats launched in this record-breaking mission.

  • TJ3Sat: (Thomas Jefferson High School) This is the first ever satellite designed and built by high school students. Its mission is to engage students in space science and provide educational resources for other K-12 institutions to build their own satellites. The satellite itself is designed to allow users to upload approved text messages, convert the texts to voice signals, and then relay these audio messages back to Earth over an amateur radio frequency.
  • KySAT-2: (Kentucky Space Consortium) In a show of determination after the rocket carrying KySat-1 failed to achieve orbit back in 2011, students at the University of Kentucky and Morehead University persevered to design and build KySat-2. This satellite includes a digital camera, temperature sensor, and stellar gyroscope, as well as communication systems to receive commands and transmit data and photos to the ground station.
  • Firefly: (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) This satellite will be used to investigate links between lightning and terrestrial gamma ray flashes, exploring what initiates lightning and what effects it has on the atmosphere.
  • COPPER: (St. Louis University) Testing a commercial off-the-shelf infrared imager, this satellite is examining the instrument’s suitability for Earth observation and space situational awareness.
  • DragonSat-1: (Drexel University and U.S. Naval Academy) This satellite is being used to acquire images of the northern and southern lights and also demonstrate deployment of a gravity gradient boom for passive attitude stabilization.
  • PhoneSat 2.4: (NASA Ames Research Center) This is a follow-on to NASA’s previous PhoneSat mission, which launched three CubeSats earlier in 2013, and is being used to further demonstrate the cost-effectiveness and utility of using low-cost smartphones for satellite operation.

With the surge in popularity of CubeSats, and their relative ease of deployment, it’s an exciting time to be involved in space research and operations. A new era of space science has arrived, and era in which satellite access is more available to more people than ever before.

So get out there and see how you can participate. Maybe you too can soon launch your own satellite.

For a complete list of satellites launched during the ORS-3 mission, refer to these related articles posted by Space.com and NASASpaceflight.com.

EnMAP Coral Reef Simulation – The first of its kind

The GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences and HySpeed Computing announce the first ever simulation of a coral reef scene using the EnMAP End-to-End Simulation tool. This synthetic, yet realistic, scene of French Frigate Shoals will be used to help test marine and coral reef related analysis capabilities of the forthcoming EnMAP hyperspectral satellite mission.

EeteS EnMAP Simulation FFS

EeteS simulation of EnMAP scene for French Frigate Shoals, Hawaii

EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program) is a German hyperspectral satellite mission scheduled for launch in 2017. As part of the satellite’s development, the EnMAP End-to-End Simulation tool (EeteS) was created at GFZ to provide accurate simulation of the entire image generation, calibration and processing chain. EeteS is also being used to assist with overall system design, the optimization of fundamental instrument parameters, and the development and evaluation of data pre-processing and scientific-exploitation algorithms.

EeteS has previously been utilized to simulate various terrestrial scenes, such as agriculture and forest areas, but until now had not previously been used for generating a coral reef scene. Considering the economic and ecologic importance of coral reef ecosystems, the ability to refine existing analysis tools and develop new algorithms prior to launch is a critical step towards efficiently implementing new reef remote sensing capabilities once EnMAP is operational.

The input imagery for the French Frigate Shoals simulation was derived from a mosaic of four AVIRIS flightlines, acquired in April 2000 as part of an airborne hyperspectral survey of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Selection of this study area was based in part on the availability of this data, and in part due to the size of the atoll, which more than adequately fills the full 30 km width of an EnMAP swath. In addition to flightline mosaicking, image pre-processing included atmospheric and geographic corrections, generating a land/cloud mask, and minimizing the impact of sunglint. The final AVIRIS mosaic was provided as a single integrated scene of at-surface reflectance.

For the EeteS simulation, the first step was to transform this AVIRIS mosaic into raw EnMAP data using a series of forward processing steps that model atmospheric conditions and account for spatial, spectral, and radiometric differences between the two sensors. The software then simulates the full EnMAP image processing chain, including onboard calibration, atmospheric correction and orthorectification modules to ultimately produce geocoded at-surface reflectance.

The resulting scene visually appears to be an exact replica of the original AVIRIS mosaic, but more importantly now emulates the spatial and spectral characteristics of the new EnMAP sensor. The next step is for researchers to explore how different hyperspectral algorithms can be used to derive valuable environmental information from this data.

For more information on EnMAP and EeteS: http://www.enmap.org/

EeteS image processing and above description performed with contributions from Drs. Karl Segl and Christian Rogass (GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences).