Innovations and Innovators in Space – Elon Musk to speak at upcoming ISS R&D Conference 2015

Join us at ISS R&D 2015 – the International Space Station Research & Development Conference taking place in Boston, MA from July 7-9 – to connect with game-changing scientists and other experts who are driving innovation through space research.

This year’s featured keynote speaker is Elon Musk – transformative entrepreneur and space visionary – who will be taking the stage on Tuesday July 7 to share “his thoughts on enabling a new era of innovators through space exploration and the International Space Station.”

Elon Musk Keynote Speaker - ISS R&D 2015

Core topics to be discussed at ISS R&D 2015 include Biology and Medicine, Human Health in Space, Commercialization and Nongovernment Utilization, Materials Development, Plant Science, Remote Sensing/Earth and Space Observation, Energy, STEM Education, and Technology Development and Demonstration.

Are you new to space research? If so, see how space can you elevate your research! There’s a New User Workshop being held on Monday July 6 before the conference begins to introduce interested users to the benefits of conducting research in microgravity and utilizing the ISS for Earth observation.

For more information on the conference:

We look forward to seeing you there.

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 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:


About HICO ( “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 ( and “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:

HyPhoon – Announcing Launch of Geospatial Data Sharing Service

HySpeed computing is proud to announce the release of HyPhoon, a community gateway for the access and exchange of datasets, applications and knowledge.

The inaugural dataset offered through HyPhoon is from Heron Reef, Australia, provided courtesy of the Center for Spatial Environmental Research at the University of Queensland.

Heron ReefHeron Reef (32 km^2) is located at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and has been a focus of coral reef research since the early 1900s. The reef contains Heron Island, which hosts one of the longest running, most significant, coral reef research stations in the world. One of the first large scale reef mapping projects in the world was developed on Heron Reef in the 1980s. Since the late 1990s the Biophysical Remote Sensing Group at the University of Queensland has developed and tested remote sensing applications on Heron Reef with collaborators from around Australia and the rest of the world.

Data offered for the Heron Reef dataset currently includes:

  • mosaic of 2002 CASI hyperspectral imagery at 1 m spatial resolution
  • field transects from 2002 of substrate cover for 3,586 photos
  • depth measurements from 2007 for 7,462 individual soundings
  • bathymetric map derived from the 2002 CASI imagery
  • habitat map derived from 2007 QuickBird imagery
  • geomorphic zonation derived from 2007 QuickBird imagery

This data is offered using the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY 3.0 Unported), which “lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.”

The data from HyPhoon is available for the community to use in research projects, class assignments, algorithm development, application testing and validation, and in some cases also commercial applications. In other words, in the spirit of encouraging innovation, these datasets are offered as a community resource and open to your creativity.

We welcome your thoughts for new data you would like to see included, and also encourage you to contribute your own data or derived products to showcase on HyPhoon.

To access HyPhoon:


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:

Open-Access Scientific Data – A new option from the Nature Publishing Group

In May 2014 the Nature Publishing Group will be launching a new online publication – Scientific Data – which will focus on publishing citable descriptions of open-access data.

There are many benefits to open-access data sharing, including enhanced collaboration, greater research visibility, and accelerated scientific discovery. However, the logistics of providing efficient data storage and dissemination, and ensuring proper citations for data usage, can be a challenging process if undertaken individually. Fortunately there are a growing number of government sponsored and privately funded data centers now providing these services to the community.

As one of the newest offerings in this domain, Scientific Data is approaching open-access through the publication of Data Descriptors: “peer-reviewed, scientific publications that provide detailed descriptions of experimental and observational datasets.” Data Descriptors are “designed to be complementary to traditional research publications” and can include descriptions of data used in new journal publications, data from previously published research, and standalone data that has its own intrinsic scientific value.

Scientific Data

Scientific Data’s six key principles (source:

Because Scientific Data is open-access, there are no fees associated with user access to the Data Descriptors. However, to support and facilitate this open-access, authors must pay an article processing charge for each Descriptor that is published. Authors have the option of publishing their Data using one of three different Creative Commons licenses: Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0), Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0), or Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0). Each license requires users to properly cite the source of the data, but with varying levels of requirements on how the data can be used and re-shared.

Note that under this model Scientific Data is only publishing the Data Descriptors, and authors must still place the data itself in approved publically available data repositories. This helps ensure data is made readily available to the community without restriction. Approved repositories within the environmental and geosciences currently include the National Climatic Data Center, the NERC Data Centres, and PANGAEA. However, authors can also propose additional data repositories be included in this list.

Scientific Data is now accepting submissions, and offering early adopting authors a discounted article processing charge.

For more info on Scientific Data:

Satellite Overlays in Google Earth – The CEOS Visualization Environment

Are you planning a remote sensing mission? Do you want to see the coverage of different satellite instruments before acquiring imagery or conducting your fieldwork? If so, then it’s definitely worth exploring the CEOS Visualization Environment (COVE) tool to visualize where and when different instruments are observing your study area.


COVE is “a browser-based system that leverages Google-Earth to display satellite sensor coverage areas and identify coincidence scene locations.” It is a collaborative project developed by the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Working Group on Calibration and Validation and the NASA CEOS System Engineering Office (SEO). The COVE tool is available online at:

The COVE web portal includes a suite of three main tools for planning remote sensing missions: the core COVE tool, which provides visualizations of instrument coverage; the Rapid Acquisition Tool, which allows users to identify and predict when sensors will cover specified study areas; and the Mission and Instrument Browser, which provides descriptions of the hundreds of different missions and instruments included in the COVE database.

So what can COVE do for you? As example, let’s assume you want to acquire coincident Landsat-8 and WorldView-2 imagery over the reefs of southwestern Puerto Rico later this year. You can use COVE to calculate when and where instrument coverage will overlap, and hence schedule your associated fieldwork and other mission planning accordingly. In this example, as shown here, Landsat-8 and WorldView-2 will overlap southwestern Puerto Rico on Nov-25-2013.


Ground swaths for Landsat-8 (left) and WorldView-2 (right) on Nov-25-2013


Ground swath overlap for Landsat-8 and WorldView-2 on Nov-25-2013 in southwestern Puerto Rico

As you would expect, COVE includes many other options. Among these is the ability to incorporate different overlays, such as average annual and monthly cloud cover and precipitation, as well as simultaneously display up to four globes at a time. Additionally, results can also be saved and exported to STK, KML, and as a 2D global image. Given its usefulness and versatility, COVE has definitely found a permanent home in our mission planning toolbox.


Global ground swath for Landsat-8 on Nov-25-2013

About CEOS: “Established in 1984, the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) coordinates civil space-borne observations of the Earth.  Participating agencies strive to enhance international coordination and data exchange and to optimize societal benefit. Currently, 53 members and associate members made up of space agencies, national, and international organizations participate in CEOS planning and activities.”

For more on CEOS:

NASA Apps – Earth and space science at your fingertips

Do you crave information on remote sensing, satellite technology, exploration and other innovative space-related topics? Are you interested in learning more about specific NASA missions, or just want to browse through NASA’s many images and visualizations? We’ve put together a list of mobile Apps that should help satisfy your craving:


  • NASA Earth As Art. “This app celebrates Earth’s aesthetic beauty in the patterns, shapes, colors, and textures of the land, oceans, ice, and atmosphere.” – iPad
  • NASA Technology Innovation. “Technology Innovation is a digital publication of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate which will feature the latest space technology innovators and project developments across the agency.” – iPad/online, updated quarterly
  • NASA App. “The NASA App showcases a huge collection of the latest NASA content, including images, videos on-demand, NASA Television, mission information, news & feature stories, latest tweets, ISS sighting opportunities, satellite tracking, Third Rock Radio and much more.” – iPhone/iPad/Android
  • NASA Science: A Journey of Discovery. “This NASA Science application brings you the latest information from NASA’s Science Missions, including the spacecraft, their instruments, the data, and what we are learning about the questions we seek to answer.” – iPad
  • NASA Visualization Explorer. “This is the NASA Visualization Explorer, the coolest way to get stories about advanced space-based research delivered right to your iPad. A direct connection to NASA’s extraordinary fleet of research spacecraft, this app presents cutting edge research stories in an engaging and exciting format.” – iPad
  • Earth-Now. “NASA’s Earth Now is an application that visualizes recent global climate data from Earth Science satellites, including surface air temperature, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and water vapor as well as gravity and sea level variations. The resulting 3D model of the Earth may be rotated by a single finger stroke, and may also be zoomed in or out by pinching 2 fingers.” – iPhone/iPad/Android
  • Space Images. “NASA/JPL’s Space Images app offers a unique view of the sky via hundreds of images taken by spacecraft studying planets, stars, galaxies, weather on Earth and more. Save to your device as backgrounds or wallpaper and share them with friends on Facebook, Twitter and email as you scan through our extensive photo albums and rate your favorites.” – iPhone/iPad/Android
  • Spinoff 2012. “NASA Spinoff profiles the best examples of technology that have been transferred from NASA research and missions into commercial products. From life-saving satellite systems to hospital robots that care for patients and more, NASA technologies benefit society. There’s more space in your life than you think!” – iPad/online, published annually

To access a full list of NASA Apps:

What’s on your mobile device?

Data Management and Broader Impact – Satisfying the new NSF Merit Review criteria

NSF LogoEarlier this year the National Science Foundation released an updated version of the Merit Review process, which among other items includes modifications to the criteria used to assess Broader Impact. The following explores a few ideas on how data management strategies can be leveraged towards expanding your broader impact.

The fundamental purpose of the Merit Review process is to ensure that proposals are reviewed in a fair and equitable manner. Recently, after more than a decade since the last in-depth review of these criteria, a task force was established in 2010 to evaluate and revise the principles and descriptions of the Merit Review process. A final report was published by the task force in 2012, and the new criteria have been in effect for all NSF proposals submitted since January 2013.

As stated in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, “the Intellectual Merit criterion encompasses the potential to advance knowledge” and “the Broader Impacts criterion encompasses the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.” While previous guidelines required proposals to address intellectual merit and broader impact within the one-page summary preceding the main proposal, the new guidelines are more explicit, requiring proposers to now include individual stand-alone statements on intellectual merit and broader impacts within the Project Summary. Additionally, proposers must also include a specific section within the Project Description that directly addresses the broader impact of the proposed research.

Keeping in mind that proposals also require a supplemental document describing your Data Management Plan, consider the potential benefits and advantages of interconnecting your data management strategy with your objectives for achieving broader impact. For example:

  • Data sharing. Data that is openly shared with the community can be utilized by multiple researchers for a variety of applications and thus have greater impact than just a single project. Data sharing also increases the awareness of and number of publications citing the research that created the data.
  • Class development. Project data that is utilized for class development and classroom exercises expands impact related to student engagement and education. Student involvement can also be extended to incorporate different aspects of data collection and processing tasks.
  • Learning modules. The development of training tools and learning modules based on project data can add even greater dimension to the impact on education, particularly when shared openly with the greater scientific community.
  • Additional projects. Utilizing data across multiple projects, as well as for multiple proposal efforts, increases impact across a greater range of scientific objectives. Exploring alternative uses for data can also spur new research ideas and encourage interdisciplinary project development.

Data can be extremely valuable, so be sure to leverage its full potential when proposing new projects and expanding the impact of your current research. It benefits both you and the community.

This is Part 3 of a discussion series on data management and data sharing related to government funded research. Visit Part 1 and Part 2 to read the earlier installments of this storyline.

For more information on the NSF Merit Review process:

Rockets in the Rainforest – ESA deploys three new satellites from its spaceport in French Guiana

ESA Proba-V

Proba-V (artist rendition; courtesy ESA)

Earlier this week, on a rainy night at the European Spaceport located along the tropical coast of French Guiana, the Vega launch vehicle successfully rocketed into space and completed its mission of deploying three new satellites into orbit.

This was just the second deployment of Vega, representing a momentous occasion for both the European Space Agency and Arianespace – the company operating the launch – and marking another significant step forward in the commercial transition of launch operations.

Also celebrating the Vega launch were the teams behind the three satellites deployed during the mission. These include:

  • Proba-V. From the European Space Agency, Proba-V was the primary payload of the Vega mission. The “V” stands for vegetation, and the satellite is designed as a follow-on mission to the vegetation imagers included on the French Spot-4 and -5 satellites. Proba-V contains a moderate-resolution four-band multispectral instrument capable of mapping complete global vegetation cover once every two days.
  • VNREDSat-1A. Representing the first Earth observing satellite from Vietnam, this is a high-resolution five-band imager (four multispectral bands and one panchromatic) designed for monitoring and managing natural resources, assessing the impacts of climate change, and improving response to natural disasters.
  • ESTCube-1. This represents the very first satellite from Estonia. ESTCube-1 is a CubeSat built primarily by students at the University of Tartu. Its main scientific objective is to deploy and test an electric solar wind sail, a novel method of space propulsion.

You may ask why the European Spaceport, aka Guiana Space Center, is located in the equatorial rainforest of South America, which upon first consideration may seem like an unlikely location. The answer is that the Spaceport’s location has some significant advantages. First and foremost, its location near the equator makes the Spaceport ideal for launching satellites into geosynchronous orbit, and given the higher rotational speed of the planet near the equator, this also lends efficiency to the launch process (i.e., saving fuel and money). Second, the region is relatively unpopulated and not at risk from earthquakes or hurricanes, thereby significantly reducing risk from any unforeseen disasters. The European Spaceport also has a rich launch history extending back nearly 50 years. Originally established by France in 1964, the Spaceport has been used by the European Space Agency since its founding in 1975.

With all this talk lately about new satellites, it may also seem like space is starting to get crowded. It is! The issue isn’t necessarily all the new satellites being launched, but rather all the derelict space debris that remains in orbit. To address this issue, there has been significant international discussion lately to develop debris removal plans. While such an endeavor is certainly going to be costly and logistically difficult, space cleanup is a necessary step towards ensuring the integrity of current and future satellites.

But for now let’s celebrate the success of these latest satellite missions and make sure the data is put to good use.