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We want to use the International Space Station as a platform for a hyperspectral sensor to collect data of the Earth.

We want to use the International Space Station as a platform for a hyperspectral sensor to collect data of the Earth. Read More
pledged of $300,000 goal
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Funding Unsuccessful

This project's funding goal was not reached on October 8, 2011.

Brian Penn
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Brian Penn

First created  |  1 backed

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About this project

We want to put a hyperspectral sensor in the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) on the International Space Station (ISS) to study the Earth. Look, everybody loves space.  We were all tremendously disappointed when Shuttle Atlantis flew its last mission in July. Now, the ISS is just sitting up there.  Of the $billions spent on the ISS, most scientists don't use it. The "if you build it, they will come" approach doesn't seem to be working. Some people complain about the orbit or size or shape of the ISS.  Nothing's ever right for these folks.  We think that's baloney, don't you?

Instead other folks opt for launching their own satellites.  Launching your own satellite is incredibly expensive because you have to build everything the sensor needs to be a standalone flyer, i.e., power, communications, etc. This is where most of the money goes (generally taxpayer $$). Seems like a waste of money if things go wrong, doesn't it?

And if you haven't noticed, no offense, there isn't a high success rate for launching standalone sensors.  And what happens if your standalone sensor beats the odds and does make it to orbit and stops working?  You've just launched a very expensive practice target for the missile defense system.  Not so for the ISS, it has reliable supply ships.  And, if something does goes wrong, we've got on site support.  And if they can't fix it, we just bring it home on the next supply mission.  That's pretty clever, isn't it?

As you can tell, we like the ISS.  Getting to the ISS is pretty safe and secure.  Its got a great location. Its got great connectivity.  Once onboard there are internal and external mounts, power, and communications galore.  The ISS is the ultimate plug and play location for a sensor.  And it doesn't cost an arm and leg to get there!!  Pretty cool, isn't it?

NASA likes our idea.  We've got a Space Act Agreement with NASA to take our sensor to the ISS.  So even if there are no more Shuttles we can get our sensor to the ISS aboard one of the SpaceX's supply ships.  We were recently notified that we have a manifest for next year.    

We have a great sensor on loan from the Surface Optics Corporation. The sensor is a proven SOC710 128-channel push broom sensor that covers the Visible-Near InfraRed (VNIR) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS).  The VNIR is good for looking at plants, rocks, and just about anything on the Earth's surface.  Push broom means it uses the motion of the platform to collect one line at time to build up and image. The SOC710 hyperspectral sensor samples the VNIR every 33 nanometers.  At this resolution we can see characteristic features that are blurred out at coarser sampling intervals.  We actually get a light spectrum that can tell us the composition of the material on the Earth's surface. 

We're also going to share our data with the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado Springs.  They've agreed to incorporate our mission into their educational programs. This way we can encourage kids to get involved with space as part of their Science Technology, Engineering and Math program. 

Now, we're down to the wire.  We need $300,000 to finish the job.  The money will go to:

  • Sensor Integration.  This is the "shake and bake" part of the project.  It is a series of tests to determine the space-worthiness of the sensor.  We lined up a company to perform this task.
  • A mount for the sensor in the WORF.  Everything floats free in space.  We have to mount the sensor so we can precisely control what it looks at here on Earth.  We know of several companies and universities that do this work.
  • The web interface to the sensor on the ISS.  We'll also need to create some specific software applications to create products from the data.  We'll use special programs built for NASA to control the sensor from Houston.  
  • IPhone app so you can see what the sensor is up to in real time.

As you can see, we're almost there.  We've done all the "heavy lifting."  We approached a number of large corporations for support, but they want the U.S. Government to pay for it. Which means the cost would go through the roof!!  We know this can be done within our budget.  So, it's up to you.  Like most of you, we're dreamers.  We see the ISS as a stepping stone to the stars.  After all, that's where we belong,isn't it?


  • The pixels will be approximately 30-35 m. The imager collects 1024 pixels across.

    Last updated:
  • The nature of a hyperspectral imager allows us to determine the presence of materials at levels as low as 10% of a pixel. In certain scenarios, this sensor is move for tipping and cueing. Materials of interest can be detected, then a sensor aboard an airplane can be deployed to investigate a higher resolution. This is very cost effective versus have higher spatial resolution. There is a limit to subpixel material detection and 30 m appears reasonable.

    Last updated:
  • Our system is a response to HICO. Many of us in the remote sensing community had high hopes for HICO (no pun intended). HICO has a similar number of bands, but it has 100 m resolution. This is great for the oceans, but not so great for us here on the land.

    Last updated:
  • The spectrometer will have the following characteristics.

    The gsd for each pixel will be 30-35 m, or roughly the same as Landsat 7. The detector is 1024 pixels wide so the swath width will be about 30 km.

    Last updated:


  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00 USD

    You get a digital copy of the first image taken with our sensor from the ISS.

    Estimated delivery
    8 backers
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25 USD

    You get a digital image of a really cool spot on the Earth from our archive of images. The archive will grow, so you don't have to make a selection from our website until an image you like is collected.

    Estimated delivery
    4 backers
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100 USD

    You get one full data cube of one of the images we collect to process in any manner you want.

    Estimated delivery
    1 backer
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000 USD

    You get to select a location on the Earth to image and you get the full data cube.

    Estimated delivery
    0 backers

Funding period

- (30 days)