Mission Overview ▸ Instrument Description

Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO)

Instrument Description

Design & Heritage

The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO; Corson et al., 2008, Lucke et al., 2011 is the first spaceborne imaging spectrometer designed to sample the coastal ocean. HICO builds on almost two decades of experience developing hyperspectral imaging for the coastal ocean (Davis et al., 2006). More specifically, the HICO design is based on the PHILLS airborne imaging spectrometers (Davis et al, 2002). HICO samples selected coastal regions at 90 m with full spectral coverage (400 to 900 nm sampled at 5.7 nm) and a very high signal-to-noise ratio to resolve the complexity of the coastal ocean.

HICO was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) as an Innovative Naval Prototype (INP), and demonstrates coastal products including water clarity, bottom types, bathymetry and on-shore vegetation maps. As an INP, HICO also demonstrates innovative ways to reduce the cost and schedule of this space mission by adapting proven PHILLS aircraft imager architecture and using Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components where possible. The HICO program was initiated in February 2006. In January 2007 HICO was selected to fly on the Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility (JEM-EF) on the International Space Station. Construction began following the Critical Design Review on November 15, 2007. HICO was completed in July 2008 and it was integrated into the HICO and RAIDS Experimental Payload (HREP) in August 2008. HICO is integrated into HREP and flown with support and direction from DOD’s Space Test Program. HREP has also received support from NASA and JAXA as the first US experiment payload on the JEM-EF. HREP was launched on the H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV) September 10, 2009. The HTV rendezvoused with the ISS on September 17, 2009. The first HICO imagery was collected on September 25, 2009. The initial one-year demonstration phase was completed October 1, 2010.

HICO exceeded all its objectives as an INP and continued to operate beyond the 4-year mark. ONR provided support the first three years of operations, including the development and operation of the HICO website at Oregon State University (OSU). With the expiration of ONR funding in December 2012, NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) Program agreed to provide funding such that the operation of HICO, including the OSU HICO website and data distribution, could continue.

Sensor and Data Characteristics

Detailed information on the sensor and data characteristics can be found here.


HICO underwent detailed calibration and characterization at NRL-DC prior to integration and launch. The IGARSS presentation by Dan Korwan and others gives a brief overview of the process and example data. A full description of the laboratory characterization and calibration is in a 2011 paper by Bob Lucke et al., "The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO): Instrument Description and First Images".


Corson, M. R., D. R. Korwan, R. L. Lucke, W. A. Snyder and C. O. Davis, 2008, The Hyperspectral Imager For The Coastal Ocean (HICO) On The International Space Station, IEEE Proceedings of the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, 978-1-4244-2808-3/08.

Davis, C. O., J. Bowles, R. A. Leathers, D. Korwan, T. V. Downes, W. A. Snyder, W. J. Rhea, W. Chen, J. Fisher, W. P. Bissett and R. A. Reisse, 2002, Ocean PHILLS hyperspectral imager: design, characterization, and calibration, Optics Express, 10(4): 210–221.

Davis, C. O., K. L. Carder, B.-C. Gao, Z. P. Lee, and W. P. Bissett, 2006, The Development of Imaging Spectrometry of the Coastal Ocean, IEEE Proceedings of the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, V4: 1982-1985.

Lucke, R. L., M. Corson, N. R. McGlothlin, S. D. Butcher, D. L. Wood, D. R. Korwan, R. R. Li, W. A. Snyder, C. O. Davis, and D. T. Chen, 2011, Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean: instrument description and first images, Applied Optics, 50(11): 1501-1516.