Dec. 3! UNCW Professor Counts Down to Launch of Groundbreaking Nanosatellite

Saturday, December 01, 2018

UNCW professor John M. Morrison’s nanosatellite, SeaHawk-1, is ready for launch. Spaceflight, a mission management provider, anticipates launching SeaHawk-1 as part of a rideshare mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch, postponed on Nov. 19 and Nov. 28 due to weather conditions, has been rescheduled for Sunday, Dec. 2.

Working alongside a team of scientists, with representatives from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Cloudland Instruments and Clyde Space, Morrison has spent the last three years meticulously developing SeaHawk-1 and its groundbreaking ocean color sensor. He is a professor at the UNCW Center for Marine Science.

“We are extremely proud of John and the members of the research team who have made this project a reality,” said Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli. “It is not often that a university launches a satellite into space, but our faculty and staff are always achieving the unexpected, reaching new horizons and accomplishing what was previously thought impossible.”

Funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, SeaHawk-1 will capture high-resolution images depicting the changing biology in the ocean’s surface. This will give researchers access to invaluable ocean data, alerting them of the expansion of harmful algal blooms and even identifying potential fishing zones. The data will then be entered into NASA’s Ocean Biology Distributed Active Archive, allowing UNCW to make it accessible to the international community at no cost.

“The data collected will improve our ability to monitor coastal environments where anthropogenic stresses like ‘red tides’ are often most acute,” said Morrison. “By making the data from the SeaHawk-1 available to everyone at no cost, our hope is that scientists will use it to address a number of critical societal needs, especially in coastal regions.”

As news of the satellite launch begins to spread, Morrison and postdoctoral research fellow Sara Rivero-Calle are already receiving inquiries from UNCW students from various programs across campus on ways they can collaborate.

“Students see this interdisciplinary project as a chance to expand their skills and knowledge in their particular field of study, and we are working on providing learning opportunities for them,” said Rivero-Calle. “This is an exciting moment for everyone, and it is an honor for a young scientist like me to be part of it!”

Fostering collaborative campus partnerships and enhancing global research are key priorities of the university’s Strategic Plan. UNCW originally wrote about Morrison's satellite project in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of UNCW Magazine.

Launch has been confirmed for Dec. 3. Follow the SpaceX Twitter account for updates, including launch time.

The livestream of the launch will also be available to watch.

Launch date and time could change; please monitor the homepage for updates.

-- Christina Schechtman