Auburn University part of team conducting research using International Space Station data

Published: March 11, 2016
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Auburn University is teaming up with the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Alabama A&M University in the newly formed Alabama Remote Sensing Consortium working with Teledyne Brown Engineering, which is providing state universities with imaging data of the earth's surface from NASA's International Space Station.

Auburn researchers will use the data to potentially impact research in precision agriculture, forestry, biodiversity, emergency management, geo-intelligence, weather modeling and other areas.

Teledyne Brown, based in Huntsville, works with NASA's International Space Station National Lab Office to advance technology development, research and the utilization of the International Space Station for commercial purposes.

The consortium will allow Teledyne Brown to gain the research expertise from the state of Alabama's research and educational institutions, while the universities will have access to almost 500,000 square kilometers of free research-grade hyperspectral data.

Hyperspectral imaging divides the spectrum of visible light into many more bands than seen by the human eye, which sees mostly red, green and blue. Certain objects have unique spectral signatures, or "fingerprints," which provide a wealth of information about the object being imaged. For example, a spectral signature for oil helps geologists find new oil fields, or a certain disease condition in a pine tree forest may become visible in a hyperspectral image.

Data will come from the DLR Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer hyperspectral imager that is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station in 2017. Teledyne Brown built the Multi-User System for Earth Sensing, or MUSES, platform on which the data from the hyperspectral imager will be acquired.

The data is also expected to further research in urbanization effects and archaeology; help scientists monitor oil spills, water pollution and algae blooms; and provide fine detail in disaster recovery operations.

"Unique partnerships between industry and higher education in the state, such as ARSC, enable our researchers to be at the cutting edge of science applications for society," said Rodney Robertson, executive director of Auburn University's Huntsville Research Center.

Auburn University faculty participating in the consortium include Mike Fogle and J-M Wersinger, Physics; Luke Marzen, Geosciences; Wei-Shinn Jeff Ku, Computer Science and Software Engineering; Brenda Ortiz and Thorsten Knappenberger, Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences; and Mike Ogles, Auburn University Huntsville Research Center.

"Researchers or principal investigators from the universities will apply to the consortium to get the data from Teledyne Brown," said ARSC director Robert Griffin. "They can get access to this free data that they can then leverage to write proposals."