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SeaWiFS

Phase: Past

Launch Date: August 01, 1997

Mission Project Home Page - http://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/SeaWiFS/SEASTAR/SPACECRAFT.html

Program(s):Earth Systematic Missions

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The OrbView-2 (formerly SeaStar) satellite carried the SeaWiFS instrument which was designed to monitor the color of the world's oceans. Various ocean colors indicate the presence of different types and quantities of marine phytoplankton, which play a role in the exchange of critical elements and gases between the atmosphere and oceans. The satellite monitored subtle changes in the ocean's color to assess changes in marine phytoplankton levels, and provided data to better understand how these changes affect the global environmental and the oceans' role in the global carbon cycle and other biogeochemical cycles. Complete coverage of the Earth's oceans occurred every two days. The NASA sponsored mission was contracted as a "data buy" from a Orbital Sciences Corporation, who built, launched, and operated the satellite, and then sold data from the satellite to NASA. NASA will retain all rights to data for research purposes, while will OSC retain all rights for commercial and operational purposes. The mission was a follow on to the Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS).

Only one instrument was carried: the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS). Consisting of an optical scanning telescope and an electronics module, SeaWiFS imaged the Earth's oceans in 8 frequency bands. The scanning telescope rotated at six revolutions per second in the cross-track direction to provide scan coverage with a spatial resolution of 1.13 km.

Mission Statistics:

  • Country of Origin United States
  • Customer/User NASA
  • Manufacturer(s) Orbital Sciences, Hughes
  • Launch Planned for 1996-97 on Pegasus XL from WTR
  • Orbit 705 km, circular, Sun-synchronous (noon-midnight)
  • Design Life 5 years


The satellite stopped taking data on December 11, 2010 and was subsequently decommissioned.