SEE Related Press Releases

Sept. 4, 1997

ORBIMAGE'S Second Satellite Reaches Operational Orbit

ORBVIEW-2 (SeaStar) Spacecraft

DULLES, VA Sept. 4, 1997-- Orbital Imaging Corporation (ORBIMAGE)the Earth-imaging subsidiary of Orbital Sciences Corporation(NASDAQ: ORB), today announced that its OrbView-2 satellite has successfully reached its final operational orbit and collected its first test images of the earth. The OrbView-2 satellite was successfully launched on August 1, 1997, aboard Orbital's Pegasus XL launch vehicle. Initially, Pegasus accurately deployed the Orbview-2 spacecraft into a circular "parking" orbit of 300 kilometers above the Earth. Over the past month, ORBIMAGE has conducted an extensive series of spacecraft tests and determined that the satellite's operation systems are performing very well. During this same period, the ORBIMAGE ground team successfully commanded the Orbview-2 spacecraft to raise its orbit to a mean altitude of 705 kilometers through a series of 32 separate firings of the satellite's onboard hydrazine thrusters.

Today, ORBIMAGE successfully activated the SeaWiFS sensor carried by the Orbview-2 satellite, collected test images over the United States, Canada, and the Atlantic Ocean, and transmitted these images to the main satellite control and image processing center at Dulles, VA. With these important milestones now achieved, the Orbview-2 satellite is ready to commence its mission to provide multi-spectral (color) images of the Earth's oceans and land surfaces for use in scientific and commercial applications. These applications include supporting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Mission to Planet Earth initiative. NASA will use Orbview-2 imagery to better understand the Earth's carbon cycle processes and their effect on global warming trends. Commercially, ORBIMAGE will market the multi-spectral imagery to organizations involved in environmental monitoring, high-seas fishing, forestry assessment and agricultural applications.

Mr. Mark G. Pastrone, ORBIMAGE's Vice President of Marketing, said, "Achieving the final operational orbit for the Orbview-2 satellite is a significant accomplishment of which the entire ORBIMAGE team can be very proud. Now that the spacecraft is accurately positioned and is displaying exceptional performance, we turn our attention to starting the mission's Earth-imaging operations. During September, the onboard SeaWiFS instrument will continue to produce test imagery that will be introduced to commercial markets and the scientific community in early October."


Space Exploration Engineering Inc. developed the RR-MAT (Rapid Response Mission Analysis Tools) software used to plan and execute the orbit-raising operations for the ORBVIEW-2 spacecraft. In addition, SEE personnel used RR-MAT to perform the on-site analysis and planning for the initial phases of the Orbview-2 mission. All 32 orbit-raising maneuvers were planned and overseen by SEE under contract to Orbital Sciences Corporation. Please see the SEE Technical Reports page for more information on the ORBVIEW-2 mission, and the report on ORBVIEW-2 Orbit Raising Operations

Aug. 6, 1998

OrbView-2 Satellite Celebrates First Anniversary in Orbit

DULLES, Va., Aug. 6, 1998 -- Orbital Imaging Corporation ORBIMAGE today announced that its OrbView-2 Earth imaging satellite has successfully completed its first year in space.

Launched on August 1, 1997, OrbView-2 is the world's first commercial satellite to provide high- performance multispectral imagery, such as daily color images of the Earth's oceans and land areas. During its first year of operations, OrbView-2 has provided greater than 98% satellite imaging availability as it completed over 5,000 revolutions of the Earth. The satellite has acquired over 45,000 individual scenes making up more than 300 complete global image sets, enabling ORBIMAGE to establish a strong foothold in markets including precision high- seas fishing, agriculture management, naval operations, environmental monitoring, and various scientific applications.

OrbView-2 has an exceptional ability to acquire color imagery of the Earth with eight multispectral imaging channels. One important product produced from OrbView-2 imagery is fish finding maps, which are sold on a subscription basis to high-seas fishing vessels. These fishing maps use OrbView-2's ability to monitor plankton in the world's oceans to precisely indicate productive fishing areas for such fish as skipjack, yellowfin and albacore tuna.

ORBIMAGE's current customers for OrbView-2 fish finding maps include over 100 high-seas fishing vessels. These vessels are operated by companies located around the world, including the largest high-seas fishing companies in the United States, France, Spain, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. A typical fishing vessel using OrbView-2 fishing maps is an 800-ton fishing boat which receives the digital maps on a daily basis using the INMARSAT communications system, then displays and interprets the maps on-board the vessel using a personal computer running ORBIMAGE's "OrbMap" display software.

Mr. Gilbert D. Rye, President and Chief Operating Officer of ORBIMAGE, said, "I am particularly proud of our fishing service production team who successfully produced over 2,000 customized fish finding maps during OrbView-2's first year of operations. ORBIMAGE's team of oceanographers has done a great job refining our fishing service through direct feedback from the world's leading fishing captains. As we reflect on OrbView first year, we are pleased that the fishing service is already being widely adopted as a valuable productivity-enhancing asset in the worldwide fishing industry."

Scientific applications are also an important aspect of the value of OrbView-2 imagery. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA is ORBIMAGE's primary anchor customer for research uses of OrbView-2 data. Under a five-year $45 million data purchase agreement with ORBIMAGE, NASA is using OrbView-2's global color imagery for research activities such as studying the impact of the world's oceans on the global climate. NASA already has licensed over 300 researchers to receive and process OrbView-2 data through its SeaWiFS Project Office at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

In addition to fishing and scientific applications, OrbView-2 imagery is also beneficial for other operational uses. Examples include OrbView-2's ability to monitor water clarity, which is useful in assisting the U.S. Navy in selected naval operations; its ability to assess global vegetation health, which is valuable for crop yield estimation in several agricultural markets; and its ability to measure ocean-surface plankton, which is critical for monitoring "red tides" and coastal pollution levels.


Space Exploration Engineering Inc. designed and targeted the final operational orbit for the ORBVIEW-2 spacecraft using the RR-MAT (Rapid Response Mission Analysis Tools). SEE continues to monitor the ORBVIEW-2 orbit under contract to ORBIMAGE Inc. Please see the SEE Technical Reports page for the first year of orbit data, along with 5-year orbit prediction information.

Sep. 17, 1998

SEAWIFS Completes A Year of Remarkable Earth Observations.

For the first time in history, NASA is releasing dramatic images documenting the Earth's changing biology, both on land and in the oceans, as observed from space for one continuous year.

The changing seasons of life, the "pulse of the planet," are being monitored by the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS), which was launched on Aug. 1, 1997, and has continuously produced data since Sept. 18, 1997. The SeaWiFS mission is the first NASA Earth Science data purchase in which industry led the development of the full mission.

"Although originally designed to observe the oceans, SeaWiFS provides a unique capability to study the land and atmospheric processes as well," said Dr.Gene Feldman, oceanographer, who heads SeaWiFS' data processing team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. "As a result, we can monitor changes in the global biosphere with a single sensor over land and ocean."

Among the highlights of SeaWiFS' first continuous year of observation were new insights into the impact of the El Niņo climate anomaly on ocean life. Further, SeaWiFS was able to monitor a variety of natural disasters, including fires in Florida, Mexico, Canada, Indonesia and Russia; floods in China; dust storms in the Sahara and Gobi Deserts; and the progress of hurricanes, such as Bonnie and Danielle.

SeaWiFS enabled scientists to witness the ocean transition from El Niņo to La Niņa conditions in the Equatorial Pacific, specifically around the Galapagos Island. The instrument also allowed researchers to observe the striking speed with which the ocean returned to its pre-El Nino state. While El Niņo essentially shut down the highly productive Equatorial Pacific ecosystem, the subsequent La Niņa resulted in unprecedented phytoplankton blooms, which stretched across the entire basin from the South American coast to the Western Pacific warm pool.

Phytoplankton are microscopic marine plants that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for internal use. Scientists are eager to understand this exchange of carbon dioxide and the role it plays in the global climate.

"One of the most fascinating events witnessed in the global ocean was the Spring bloom in the North Atlantic," said Dr. Charles McClain, SeaWiFS project scientist. "While many regions of the ocean experience a spring bloom, the event in the North Atlantic was the most dramatic." During the winter, storms and surface cooling mix the surface waters of the Atlantic, replenishing the nutrient supply from the deep, cold, nutrient-rich waters. Once sunlight is sufficient to support plant growth, phytoplankton populations explode and persist for nearly three months until nutrients are depleted. This bloom migrates northward following the Sun throughout the spring and summer.

Unexpected phenomena observed by SeaWiFS, according to McClain, were the massive blooms of coccolithophores, a unique type of phytoplankton in the Bering Sea. These blooms may have a significant impact on fish populations in this area, one of the most productive fishery regions in the global ocean.

During the summer-fall of 1997 and spring of 1998, expansive blooms of coccolithophores occurred along the Alaskan shelf. These were the first observations of blooms of this magnitude in the Bering Sea. Coccolithophores shed vast numbers of white carbonate platelets which cloud the water. "The net result was fish that normally spawn in the adjacent rivers could not trasverse the bloom in order to enter the rivers to spawn. In addition, local bird and marine mammal populations had a high mortality rates due to starvation because the fish migrated to other waters," said McClain.

NASA is leading an international collaboration using SeaWiFS data. More than 800 scientists representing 35 countries already have registered to use the data. There are over 50 ground-stations throughout the world which receive data from the spacecraft. In addition, the unique government-industry partnership with ORBIMAGE, Dulles VA, represents a new way of doing business for NASA.

SeaWiFS is an essential component of NASA's Earth Sciences enterprise, an ongoing effort to study the changing global environment. Using the unique perspective available from space, NASA will observe, monitor and assess large-scale environmental processes focusing on climate change.

Remarkable images from this mission are available at the SeaWifs web site.