SeaHawk-1 Ocean Color Cubesat is now OPERATIONAL 


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As of June 21st 2021, SeaHawk-1 Cubesat outfitted with the HawkEye Ocean Color Imager has completed on-orbit “Commissioning” and is entering into a period of phased startup of “Operations"!

Hawkeye imagery will be made available free of charge via the NASA Ocean Biology Distributed Active Archive Center (OB.DAAC) on NASA’s Ocean Color Website  In addition, NASA’s free software package for the processing, display and analysis of ocean color data known as SeaDAS ( has been updated to include support for HawkEye. 


SOCON: Sustained Ocean Color Observations using Nanosatellites

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) has been funded by the Gordon and Betty Foundation for technology demonstration as “proof of concept” for the development of a “game-changer” in the method to collect and disseminate Ocean Color Data via the use of Nanosatellites. The goal of this project is to enhance the ability of the earth sciences to observe ocean color in high temporal and spatial resolution modes through the use of a low-cost, next-generation, miniature ocean color sensor flown aboard a CubeSat. A CubeSat is a type of nanosatellite with volumes in multiples of 3.0 liter (30cm3), and typically uses commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components for its electronics. Our team is under contract to develop, construct, launch and operate the SeaHawk CubeSat with a HawkEye Ocean Color Sensor.  UNCW will be one of the only non-governmental operators of an Environmental Remote Sensing Satellite --- data will be handled by NASA and made available from UNCW to the International Ocean Color Community.

Ocean color satellites provide a unique vantage point for observing the changing biology in the surface ocean. SeaWiFS, which finished its remarkable 13-year mission in 2011, “set-the-bar” transforming biological oceanography and providing data critical to advance our knowledge of how such changes affect important elemental cycles, such as the carbon and nitrogen cycles, and how the ocean’s biological processes influence the climate system and allow us to monitor the biological consequences of that change - to see how the things we do, and how natural variability, affect the Earth's ability to support life and assess changes in primary production, which forms the base of the marine food chain. Using nanotechnology, we constructed an instrument with 8 times the resolution and with a development time and construction cost of both approximately 10% that of SeaWiFS.

SOCON Phase 1: Design and Construction of SeaHawk Satellite Bus and HawkEye Ocean Color Sensor

In early January 2015, a team of scientists and engineers from University of North Carolina WilmingtonCloudland Instruments of Santa Barbara, CA, Clyde Space of Glasgow, UK, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, led by UNCW Professor John M. Morrison,  received funds  from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to develop a proof-of-concept satellite mission "to demonstrate capability to construct low-cost autonomous nanosatellites to provide sustained, high spatial resolution and temporal resolution information about the surface ocean processes." The "science dream team" is composed of investigators that have been involved in the forefront of Ocean Color Remote Sensing since its inception 30+ years ago.

Program review in 2017 determined that the design, and construction of two  3U Satellites --- SeaHawk-1 and SeaHawk-2, outfitted with HawkEye Ocean Color Sensors, were nearing launch readiness.

SOCON Phase 2:  SeaHawk Ocean Color Satellite Launch and Proof-of-Concept Operations Mission

 In June 2017, we entered into Phase 2 of the program, “support one-year, proof-of-concept SeaHawk/HawkEye Missions for each of the satellites including: management; preparation, pre-launch testing and launch; satellite telemetry, tracking, and command; data downlink; data processing, calibration, distribution and storage; and, in situ vicarious calibration,” from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

SeaHawk-1 Ocean Color Cubesat, outfitted with HawkEye Ocean Color Sensors was launched on December 3rd, 2018 aboard the SpaceX Spaceflight SSA-O SmallSat Express ( using a Falcon IX booster from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. SeaHawk-1 with the HawkEye-1 Ocean Color Sensor was featured out of 64 satellites aboard the rideshare mission. The satellite was integrated ( into the launch module in Seattle, Washington, in early October 2018 and transported to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, in late October 2018. For more details on this go to our launch page.

On June 21st, 2021, SeaHawk-1 Cubesat outfitted with the HawkEye Ocean Color Imager completed on-orbit "Commissioning" and entered into a period of phased startup of "Operations".


   We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came -- John F. Kennedy