Seahawk. Space Missions for the Environment
- SPACE MISSIONS
Observing the changing biology of the ocean surface
Satellites are one of the most vital tools to better understand our planet. They enable us to capture a global view of what is happening across the planet. This gives us the ability to monitor events in real-time and look for trends in changes to key climate change indicators such as the size of the polar icecaps.
Satellites have been collecting data to monitor our planet’s ecosystems in a way that could not be achieved by any other means. This space activity is known as Earth Observation or Remote Sensing and is now increasingly being carried out by advanced small satellites and nanosatellites.
Nanosatellites, like our CubeSats, have demonstrated impressive space-based capabilities stretching across a vast range of applications. The low-cost, high-performance nature of CubeSats is opening up access to space for small countries, institutions and commercial organisations. When deployed as a fleet these cutting-edge small satellites can be used to provide near-real time global coverage and measurements.
The Earth’s oceans are a vast ecosystem that represents some 99 per cent of the Earth’s living volume and delivers numerous benefits to humanity. It is known that climate change is altering the sea concentrations, riverflow and causing costal erosion in turn threatening the survival of certain ecosystems. Our oceans are also subject to neglect and pollution which, if left unchecked, could be devasting for the future of our planet. Spacebased remote sensing provides a means of observing our oceans which would otherwise be impossible using planes and ships alone.
Sustained ocean color monitoring is vital to understanding the marine ecosystem. It has been identified as an Essential Climate Variable (ECV) and is a vital parameter in understanding long-term climate change. Furthermore, observations can be beneficial in observing oil spills, harmful algal blooms and the health of fisheries.
AAC Clyde Space are part of the SOCON project (Sustained Ocean Color Observations using Nanosatellites), a collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW), Cloudland Instruments and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, to construct, launch and operate 2-SeaHawk CubeSats with HawkEye Ocean Color Sensors. The first satellite, Seahawk-1, was launched in 2019.
The aim of the project is to observe the changing biology of the ocean surface and these first two spacecraft are a precursor to a possible constellation of SeaHawk satellites which would provide continuous measurement of ocean color data. Seahawk is a follow-on mission from the highly successful SeaWiFS (Sea-Viewing Wide field-of-View Sensor) mission, launched in 1997. Over 20 years on, Seahawk is able to replicate the performance of the SeaWiFS mission except it is approximately 100 times smaller, lighter and cheaper.
The two identical AAC Clyde Space built SeaHawk spacecraft carry a cutting-edge multispectral imager called ‘HawkEye’ to perform Ocean Colour monitoring. The data will be integrated into NASA’s SeaWiFS Data Analysis System (SeaDAS) and will be distributed worldwide by the NASA Ocean Biology Distributed Active Archive Center at Goddard Space Flight Center. The data gathered by SeaHawk will enable greater understanding of the marine food chain, oceanic climate, fisheries and pollution phenomena. This information will be vital to our ability to monitor and support the health and the and sustainability of our oceans.
The AAC Clyde Space built spacecraft features a cutting-edge multispectral imager called ‘HawkEye’, a miniaturised NASA backed Ocean Colour monitoring sensor providing enhanced image quality at a fraction of the scale of its predecessor.
“Space-based remote sensing provides a means of observing our oceans which would otherwise be impossible using planes and ships alone.“
“It has been quite an experience working with Clyde Space on the design, construction, launch, commissioning, and now operations of SeaHawk-1. As our partners at Clyde Space said when we started on this venture, this satellite is arguably one of the most sophisticated 3U Cubesats ever conceived. We have just commissioned a satellite the size of a shoebox that’s travelling at 7.5 km/s, at an altitude of about 600km with a better downlink rate than the broadband into my house providing scientific quality data on ocean ecology!” says John M Morrison, UNCW Principal Investigator.
The satellite is operated from AAC Clyde Space’s Glasgow Operations Centre, with instrument data downloaded to NASA Wallops facility, through the satellite’s X-band downlink. The data is integrated into NASA’s SeaWiFS Data Analysis System (SeaDAS) and is distributed worldwide. Initially, Operations will focus on providing free access to all data that has been collected and processed from mid-April 2021 to the International Ocean Color Community. The satellite is expected to produce around 100 images per week. Data generated enables a greater understanding of the marine food chain, oceanic climate, fisheries and pollution phenomena, enabling to support the health and sustainability of our oceans.
SeaHawk-1, a 3U CubeSat, is a follow-on mission from the highly successful SeaWiFS (Sea-Viewing Wide field-of-View Sensor) mission, launched in 1997. Over 20 years on, SeaHawk-1 is able to replicate the performance of the SeaWiFS mission except it is approximately 100 times smaller and lighter and therefore more economical ensuring long term viability of high-quality science missions.
Under agreement with the Moore Foundation, all Hawkeye imagery will be made available free of charge via the NASA Ocean Biology Distributed Active Archive Center (OB.DAAC) on NASA’s Ocean Color Web at https://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov which has been extended to handle HawkEye data. In addition, NASA’s free comprehensive software package for the processing, display and analysis of ocean color data known as SeaDAS (https://seadas.gsfc.nasa.gov/) has been updated to include the support for HawkEye.
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