Press Release

Northrop Grumman Teams With NASA and University Partners to Test Airborne Hyperspectral Imager

By SpaceRef Editor
June 13, 2008
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Northrop Grumman Corporation, NASA’s Ames Research Center and several university science partners recently completed a flyover of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve (SMER), collecting valuable test data that will enable scientists to obtain a close-up view of environmental changes and support critical decision-making efforts.

In an airborne program that leverages its expertise building the first hyperspectral imager in space, the company’s Space Technology sector designed an affordable, commercial off the shelf imager, the Hyperspectral Airborne Tactical Instrument (HATI). Along with an instrument supplied by NASA’s Ames Research Center, HATI was integrated onto a Piper Navajo aircraft to fly over the 4,344-acre SMER, a research field station of San Diego State University (SDSU).

“The HATI airborne demonstration shows our ability to collect and exploit high quality hyperspectral imagery, leveraging low-cost commercial hardware that we ultimately will use in our space systems,” said Mark Folkman, director of civil sensor systems for Northrop Grumman Space Technology. “It will also allow for a cross-comparison with NASA’s technology and provide an innovative approach to monitoring environmental change.”

Northrop Grumman was chosen as an industry partner in NASA’s Innovative Partnership Program to apply the technology used in its space-based hyperspectral imager to small satellite technology for cost-effective hyperspectral remote-sensing of the environment. NASA Ames is the principal investigator and Northrop Grumman is co-investigator.

In addition to SDSU, other universities participating in a ground measurement campaign in conjunction with the airborne test include the University of California at Irvine and the University of California at San Diego, Scripps Institute. Northrop Grumman has awarded the universities $100,000 in grants for their participation.

Data taken by the hyperspectral imagers will be merged with ground observation data taken on the reserve to study and map burn scars, vegetation regeneration, soil erosion, invasive species and habitats. In addition, the data will be used for land management and agricultural crop discrimination as well as other important applications. The merged data will deliver a system of systems approach to understanding environmental change that will better support decision-makers. A ground truth capability, which is used to calibrate and validate the hyperspectral images, will also be fielded.

“By further developing the technology we pioneered in our space-based Hyperion hyperspectral imager, we are able to provide a low-cost solution to more effectively track environmental change and better support decision-makers in their mitigation efforts,” said Leo Andreoli, director of environmental systems for Northrop Grumman Space Technology. “This unique partnership with NASA and local universities is part of our commitment to the science community to use our resources for the important work of preserving and protecting the environment.”

HATI sees the land in hundreds of narrow spectral bands, measuring reflected light from 0.4 microns in the visible light range through 1 micron in the near infrared. Since HATI flies closer to the earth than its sibling Hyperion, it achieves a higher resolution–two meters at an altitude of approximately 7,000 feet. That compares to 30 meters for the space-based instrument.

HATI is an extension of the highly successful Northrop Grumman-built Hyperion instrument, flying aboard NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite. Hyperion has been on orbit for 7.5 years, supporting the science community and demonstrating the utility of spectral imaging for ocean, coastal, geologic and other applications. The instrument also has coastal and littoral applications and can be used to measure algae growth and carbon uptake of the oceans. HATI could be used to supplement and support the existing Landsat program and function as a potential pathfinder for future Landsat missions. About Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense and technology company headquartered in Los Angeles, CA whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

SpaceRef staff editor.