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OCI Instrument Passes Key Review

Posted on Monday, May 23, 2022 at 12:00:00

PACE's Ocean Color Instrument (OCI) passed its pre-environmental review in April, taking the mission one step closer to its January 2024 launch

OCI, PACE's primary sensor, is a highly advanced optical spectrometer that will be used to measure the properties of light over portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It will enable continuous measurement of light in finer spectral steps spanning the ultraviolet to near-infrared than previous NASA ocean color satellite sensors, extending key system ocean color data records for climate studies.

A group from Goddard Space Flight Center's Ocean Ecology Lab and PACE engaged the public.
The flight Ocean Color Instrument (OCI) is installed onto the Ground Support Equipment Application for Tilt or Rotation (GAToR) at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. (Image credit: Desiree Stover, NASA)

Passing this review is important for a few reasons. First, it endorses OCI as it continues onto further tests that will determine how it will behave in space-like conditions.

"This instrument will change the way we view our home planet," said PACE Project Scientist Jeremy Werdell. "What this instrument is going to do is revolutionary."

Werdell added that getting to this point has demonstrated the community's advocacy for the PACE team, who at times faced uncertainty of the mission's fate.

Once operational, OCI will change the way researchers study ocean color.

"The general principles of ocean color haven't changed. We are still using measurements of light to conduct research," Werdell said. "But, instead of measuring six to ten wavelengths of light from blue to near-infrared, we will be able to look at a continuous spectrum across a much larger wavelength range. This move from global multi-spectral capabilities to global 'hyper'spectral capabilities will be a game-changer for our communities."

The Ocean Color Instrument (OCI) Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) Pulse Calibration Assembly (SPCA) being built at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. (Image credit: Desiree Stover, NASA)

In addition, the instrument will expand scientists' understanding of the ocean's bluest and ultraviolet signal- information that hasn’t always been readily available for ocean color purposes. Gerhard Meister, OCI's Instrument Scientist, said that nearly 100 people have helped get OCI to this point. He has observed the instrument's design and construction for over five years.

OCI is being built at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. It will consist of a cross-track rotating telescope, and thermal radiators, along with half-angle mirror and solar calibration mechanisms. The OCI's tilt will help avoid sun glint and single science detector design will inhibit image striping. Its signal-to-noise ratios will rival or exceed previous ocean color instruments.