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Quick Facts: HyperSpectral Imager for Climate Science (HySICS)

Operating from a gondola platform, the HyperSpectral Imager for Climate Science (HySICS) flew at close to 120,000 feet for over 8 hours to demonstrate a solar cross-calibration approach and to acquire sample Earth and lunar radiances in an effort to improve climate change models. (Courtesy LASP)

Operating from a gondola platform, the HyperSpectral Imager for Climate Science (HySICS) flew at close to 120,000 feet for over 8 hours to demonstrate a solar cross-calibration approach and to acquire sample Earth and lunar radiances in an effort to improve climate change models. (Courtesy LASP/Joey Espejo)

Mission Introduction

The HyperSpectral Imager for Climate Science (HySICS) Instrument Incubator Project consisted of two scientific balloon launches carrying a spectrometer capable of measuring outgoing Earth-reflected radiation with unprecedented accuracy relative to the incident sunlight. Carried in a LASP-built gondola, the two experiments flew successfully on high altitude balloons along with NASA Wallops Flight Facility Wallops Arc Second Pointers in September 2013 and August 2014.

The intent of HySICS is to demonstrate radiometric accuracies better than 0.2% in the shortwave spectral region (350 – 2,300 nm) at resolutions <8 nm, as identified by the 2007 NRC’s Decadal Survey “Earth Science and Applications from Space” as necessary for Earth climate science. The instrument images scenes onto a single focal plane array which covers this solar and near infrared spectral region containing most of the Sun’s emitted energy. Using a single array allows HySICS to be smaller and lighter than other spatial/spectral imager designs, enabling cost, mass, volume, and power savings for space-based Earth Observing missions.

During the second HySICS flight, the team was able to collect high-quality radiance measurements throughout the nearly nine-hour flight, in an effort to acquire the most accurate space-borne radiance measurements ever made of Earth. As a side benefit, HySICS observations of the Moon taken during this flight will allow researchers to improve radiance measurements of this source commonly used for on-orbit calibrations of other instruments.

The data HySICS collected will help demonstrate the ability to achieve the radiometric accuracy levels needed for climate science using the Sun as an on-orbit radiometric reference.

The HySICS instrument (shown here) builds on LASP’s heritage of solar radiometry expertise to better quantify and understand climate change on the Earth. Radiometric measurements of the Earth can establish a long-term data record that is roughly ten times more accurate than current measurements. (Courtesy NASA/Wallops Flight Facility)

The HySICS instrument (shown here) builds on LASP’s heritage of solar radiometry expertise to better quantify and understand climate change on the Earth. Radiometric measurements of the Earth can establish a long-term data record that is roughly ten times more accurate than current measurements. (Courtesy NASA/Wallops Flight Facility)

LASP Roles

LASP provides:

  • The HySICS instrument and electronics
  • The LASP Fine Sun Sensor
  • The balloon gondola
  • HySICS Principal Investigator, Greg Kopp
  • HySICS Co-PI, Peter Pilewskie

LASP Instrument

HyperSpectral Imager for Climate Science

The HySICS builds on LASP’s heritage of solar radiometry expertise to better quantify and understand climate change on the Earth. A space-based version of HySICS could provide an accurate baseline of current Earth radiometric conditions so that we can monitor climate changes and eventually help understand the extent and causes of climate change.

The instrument relies on precise radiance measurements of the Sun relative to Earth scenes. These accurate relative measurements link the Earth measurements to the accurate solar spectral irradiances that other high accuracy space assets provide. Based on accurate solar calibrations, the HySICS radiometric measurements of the Earth can thus establish a long-term data record that is roughly ten times more accurate than current measurements.

Quick Facts

Launch date: Sept. 29, 2013 & Aug. 18, 2014
Launch location: Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, Fort Sumner, NM
Launch vehicle: High Altitude Scientific Balloon
Mission target: Earth observing sub-orbital flight
Mission duration: 8.5 hours (flight #1); 9 hours (flight #2)
Other organizations involved:

  • NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office
  • NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility
  • NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF)