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BAE Systems to build hyperspectral ocean imager

31 May 2024

The defense contractor will deliver all three hyperspectral instruments for NOAA's forthcoming geostationary constellation.

BAE Systems says it has been selected to build the “Ocean Color Instrument” (OCX) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO) three-satellite constellation.

It means that the defense contractor has now been selected to deliver all three hyperspectral instruments for the mission - adding to prior awards for the GeoXO Sounder (GXS), and the Atmospheric Composition Instrument (ACX).

Scheduled for launch in the early 2030s, GeoXO is intended as an upgrade to NOAA's current Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R series (GOES-R) of weather satellites, with an anticipated lifetime through 2055.

Tracking oil spills
The OCX instrument will use hyperspectral techniques to make high-spatial resolution observations of North America’s Great Lakes region, as well as large areas of ocean extending to around 200 miles off American coasts.

“By imaging ocean and lake environments across a spectrum of ultraviolet to near-infrared light, the instrument will provide the most comprehensive data ever collected on the region's water quality, ocean biology and chemistry, ecosystem changes, and more,” says BAE Systems.

“OCX will also provide more frequent observations than previous instruments, collecting complete surveys every two hours to reduce issues like cloud cover and allow scientists to monitor quickly changing conditions.”

According to Alberto Conti, VP and general manager of Civil Space at the firm, OCX will provide NOAA and other end users with novel insights into the dynamics of aquatic ecosystems, allowing better monitoring of endangered species, the ability to track oil spills and harmful algal blooms, and protection of reef systems and fisheries.

“The GeoXO instruments will provide decision-makers with invaluable data for informed policy formulation and proactive measures to address pressing global challenges,” he said.

Air quality forecasts
The latest award comes just a month after BAE Systems said it had been selected to build the ACX element for the same mission.

ACX will take hourly, daytime measurements to improve air quality forecasts, and characterize the scale and movement of pollutants such as aerosol particles, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, glyoxal, sulfur dioxide and ozone.

“Not only will this instrument provide cutting-edge measurements of air quality, but it will also improve weather forecasts, help pilots avoid dangerous situations, warn hospitals of imminent air quality issues, and protect the lasting health and economic stability of our communities,” said Conti at the time.

In addition to the OCX and ACX instruments, BAE Systems has also been selected to build the GeoXO Sounder (GXS) instrument. It will measure atmospheric moisture, winds, and temperature to improve weather prediction models and short-term severe weather forecasting, among other applications.

NOAA says that GXS will provide real-time data of the troposphere (i.e. the lowest level of the atmosphere, where weather occurs), at a much higher frequency than is currently possible.

“It will be used for the estimation of temperature and humidity in the atmosphere by altitude, creating a profile of the atmosphere,” NOAA explained.

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