UND’s ISSAC Sensor Monitors Damage From Superstorm Sandy

The International Space Station Agricultural Camera (ISSAC), designed and operated by students at the University of North Dakota (UND), is helping NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) monitor impacts of change due to the recent Superstorm “Sandy.”

Originally designed to image agricultural crops and other vegetation, the ISSAC sensor is nearing the end of its mission onboard the ISS, but is still being used by NASA to help monitor natural disasters around the world.

Now part of the International Disaster Charter network of space sensors, which is supported by the USGS in coordination with the United Nations, ISSAC has collected imagery for several such disasters to date, from fires in northern Algeria and the western United States to flooding in Paraguay, Pakistan and across western Africa. Through the International Disaster Charter, spacefaring nations with earth-imaging capability assist each other by agreeing to share images from space in times of natural in member countries.

ISSAC is one of several US-based Earth sensors, located both onboard the ISS and operating as free-flying spacecraft. Images taken for the International Disaster Charter can be viewed and downloaded from http://hdds.usgs.gov/hdds2/.

ISSAC takes images in three color “bands,” including green, red and near-infrared. When combined for display, vegetation appears red; the brighter the red the thicker the vegetation. Though designed to look at crops, even with its more coarse resolution of about 15-20 meters for each pixel, ISSAC imagery can be useful for disaster monitoring.

The accompanying graphic illustrates storm damage detected by ISSAC. The beaches surrounding Carson Inlet, between Strathmere Beach and Ocean City, NJ (just south of Atlantic City) appear to have suffered extensive erosion in the ISSAC image, on the right, taken on November 6, 2012, when compared to the Landsat spacecraft image on the left (courtesy US Geological Survey) taken in April 2011.

ISSAC will continue disaster monitoring support for NASA through January 2013, at which time it will be removed by the astronauts to make way for a future NASA sensor.

For more information, contact Doug Olsen at 701.777.3543.