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NASA’s Coastal and Ocean Airborne Science Testbed (COAST). L. Guild 1 *, J. Dungan 1 , M. Edwards 1 , P. Russell 1 , S. Hooker 2 , J. Myers 3 , J. Morrow 4 , S. Dunagan 1 , P. Zell 1 , R. Berthold 1 , and C. Smith 1 1 NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA

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nasa s coastal and ocean airborne science testbed coast

NASA’s Coastal and Ocean Airborne Science Testbed (COAST)

L. Guild1*, J. Dungan1, M. Edwards1, P. Russell1, S. Hooker2,

J. Myers3, J. Morrow4, S. Dunagan1, P. Zell1, R. Berthold1,

and C. Smith1

1NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA

2NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, MD, USA

3Univ. of Calif., Santa Cruz/NASA Ames, Moffett Field, CA

4Biospherical Instruments Inc., San Diego, CA, USA

coast objectives
COAST Objectives

Needs: Research capability to address the challenges of remote sensing in the optically complex coastal environment, currently unachievable using satellite resources

  • Develop and integrate the first end-to-end instrument suite for simultaneous measurements of ocean color (modified imaging spectrometer), aerosol optical depth and water vapor column content (sunphotometer), and water bio-optical measurements (microradiometer-based multiwavelength radiometer package) using inputs from an associated precision navigation system.
  • Advance calibration and validation (cal/val) of satellite ocean color through airborne campaigns of the COAST instrument suite flown in conjunction with satellites and in conjunction with in situ ship-based cal/val measurements and moorings.
  • Produce high spatial resolution (5-10 m), atmospherically corrected and geolocated ocean-color products (calibrated to at-sensor radiance) that will advance understanding of coastal freshwater and marine processes and productivity and improve coastal models.

COAST Mission Overview

  • Remote Sensing in the Optically Complex Coastal Zone
  • Airborne remote sensing is used to infer properties of the coastal zone.
  • High spatial resolution is needed to capture high spatial heterogeneity.
  • Airborne reflectance spectra are composites of reflectance from:
  • 1) the atmosphere (particles, gases);
  • 2) the sea surface;
  • 3) the water column (water molecules, phytoplankton, colored dissolved organic matter); and
  • 4) the bottom (sediments, seagrass, corals).





Nov 17, 2010


Headwall Ocean Color Imaging Spectrometer

Spectrometer: Concentric Pushbroom (Offner-type)

Spectral Range: 380 – 760nm*

Dl = 10 nm (@ off-chip binning of 1.5nm pixels)

Bands: 40*

Spatial Elements: 700

IFOV: 1.23 mrad

FOV: 46.7 degrees

Weight: 20+ lbs; Power: 30 Watts

Array: 1600 x 1200 pixels (7.4mm) @ -30C

Grating optimized at 450 nm

Spectral Smile: <0.25 Pixel (0.625nm)

Keystone: <0.9 pixel (6.6mm)

Dispersion: 100 nm/mm, linear to <0.5%**

* No order-sorting

** Modeled values


14-channel Ames Airborne Tracking Sunphotometer (AATS-14)

Measures: Solar direct-beam transmission, T, at 14 wavelengths, l=354-2139 nm

Data products

  • Aerosol optical depth (AOD) at 13 l, 354-2139 nm*
  • Water vapor column content
  • Ozone column content**
  • Aerosol extinction,

354-2139 nm

  • Water vapor


*+ 3-parameter fit (useful for interpolating)

**Requires low sun, AOD(600 nm)<~0.03


Monterey Bay Flight Planning




Alt = 12,000 ft 8 m GSR

(Max alt w/o O2)

Alt = 6000 ft 5 m GSR

Alt = 4500 ft 4 m GSR





Alt = 100 ft

(Lowest safe aircraft alt.)

(Any speed okay)



monterey bay flight planning
Monterey Bay Flight Planning

Flight line orientation optimized to avoid sunglint

scientific outcomes
Scientific Outcomes
  • A flight-tested instrument suite suitable for cal/val activities for future satellite missions, as well as currently operating and developing missions.
  • Advanced payload capabilities for airborne carrier platforms including UASs.
  • A multi-sensor ocean/atmosphere data set available for improved atmospheric calibration and in-water algorithms.
  • Methodologies for empirical atmospheric correction developed for future airborne imagers of this type (e.g., NASA PRISM) when they come online.
  • Methods to address the biological properties of important coastal zone ecosystems.
  • Enabling technology for a broad range of research activities in the coastal zone to support the scientific community’s research goals and objectives.