Sequoia Scientific

Sequoia Receives Phase II SBIR Grant from NASA to Develop In-situ Hyperspectral Ocean Water Absorption Instrument Prototype.

July 26, 2021

Washington–based Sequoia Scientific, Inc. is pleased to announce receipt of a Phase II SBIR grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to further develop a new in-situ hyperspectral ocean water absorption instrument prototype. Sequoia is the prime recipient of the grant, which also includes ocean color experts Drs. Michael Twardowski and Alberto Tonizzo of Sunstone Scientific LLC (Fort Pierce, FL). Sequoia’s Vice President of Science and Technology, Dr. Wayne Slade, will lead the development as principal investigator. The project team, also including Sequoia’s Vice President of Engineering, Mr. David Dana, has decades of experience in ocean optics and instrumentation development. 

The planned work addresses NASA’s S1.08 “Suborbital Instruments and Sensor Systems for Earth Science Measurements” solicitation subtopic. Specifically aiming to develop an absorption instrument system that can both cover the UV-Vis wavelength range while mitigating the confounding effects of fluorescence and particle scattering.  The new instrument is expected to contribute high-accuracy measurements of seawater absorption within NASA’s ship-based field campaigns supporting programs such as Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry. This will improve our understanding of ocean biogeochemical cycling and for provide ground truth optical property data for future airborne and satellite ocean color missions, such as the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud and ocean Ecosystem (PACE) Earth-observing satellite mission. Absorption spectra are a primary inversion product of ocean color remote sensing, which can be used to infer suspended particle characteristics and linked to ocean primary production. However, the ocean science community currently lacks an in-water sensor for algorithm development and validation with acceptable accuracy and needed spectral range. Therefore, the PACE Science Team has identified this as a key technology gap related to their mission. 

This work builds on a successful Phase I project that focused on optical modeling of the instrument geometry and development of measurement methodology, as well as identification of key hardware components to be incorporated in a prototype instrument to be developed in Phase II. Phase II efforts encompass optical breadboarding of prototype components, further modeling and refinement of the design, characterization of the measurement, construction of field (submersible) instrument prototypes, and field testing and intercomparison with existing instruments and methods. 

Sequoia’s Dr. Slade states: “It is incredibly exciting to receive this award building on our previous feasibility study, allowing us to develop a new instrument to help address the needs of the ocean optics scientific community. This is complementary to the Hyper-bb instrument that we have commercialized that was also developed through the NASA SBIR program, and for which we see strong interest from the scientific community.”  

For further information, contact Sequoia at  


Disclaimer: The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the United States Government, or any agency thereof.  

See also: NASA 2020 SBIR Program Phase II Selections – Press Release  
RELEASE: 21-064 
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