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Building on lessons learned from previous ocean color studies, a team of dedicated people is bringing PACE to life. PACE will face a series of important milestones during its mission development. The Development Team at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) will guide PACE through each phase as the instruments, spacecraft, and observatory are built, tested, and flown.


GSFC is responsible for the principal mission elements, including the design and fabrication of the spacecraft, development of scientific instrumentation.

Observatory Overview
Mass with fuel Not to exceed 1700 kg (3748 lb)
Dimensions 1.5 m x 1.5 m x 3.2 m (4.9 ft x 4.9 ft x 10.5 ft)
Power 1000 Watts
Communications S-Band - Command & Telemetry
Ka-Band - Science Data


The primary science instrument planned for PACE is the Ocean Color Instrument (OCI) which will be capable of measuring the color of the ocean from ultraviolet to shortwave infrared. Learn more about the OCI »

PACE will likely include two polarimeters. Such instruments are used to measure how the oscillation of sunlight within a geometric plane - known as its polarization - is changed by passing through clouds, aerosols, and the ocean.

PACE's polarimeters are planned to be contributed by the Netherlands (SPEXone) and University of Maryland Baltimore County (HARP-2). These instruments are very compact: for example, HARP-2 weighs 13 kg (28.7 lb).

SPEXone will be excellent for aerosol characterization. It will also address aerosol climate objectives beyond those required of the OCI. HARP-2 will extend the aerosol observations to a wider swath and will be excellent for cloud droplet size, along with ice particle shape and roughness determination. It will provide cloud-observing capabilities beyond those required of OCI. Its wide swath will approximately match that of the OCI, offering potentially improved atmospheric correction for ocean color.

Spectro-Polarimeter for Planetary Exploration (SPEXone)
Spectro-polarimeter for planetary exploration
Hyper Angular Rainbow Polarimeter (HARP-2)
Hyper angular rainbow polarimeter
Attributes Hyperspectral (UV) & narrow swath Hyperangular & wide swath
Spectral range [resolution] 385-770 nm [hyperspectral 2 nm] 440, 550, 670 nm [10 nm] & 870 nm [40 nm]
Number of viewing angles [degrees] 5 [-57°, -20°, 0°, 20°, 57°] 20 for 440, 550, 870 nm & 60 for 670 nm [spaced over 114°]
Coverage [swath width] [100 km] 94° [1550 km]
Ground sample distance 2.5 km 3 km
Mission Status
In July 2017, the mission entered Phase B, Preliminary Design & Technology Completion, with an expected launch readiness date of 2022.
Mission lifecycle phases
View the full mission timeline »
Upcoming Events
SEP 24-27, 2018SPIE Optics + Photonics Conference: Remote Sensing of the Open and Coastal Ocean and Inland Waters SPIE »
OCT 1, 2018Manuscript Deadline for Frontiers Special Issue Frontiers »
OCT 7-12, 2018 Ocean Optics XXIV Conference: Registration Now Open [MORE]
NOV 5-8, 2018Optical Society (OSA) Hyperspectral Imaging and Sounding of the Environment (HISE) Meeting OSA »
DEC 10-14, 20182018 AGU Fall Meeting Session: Advancing the Use of Multi-angle Polarimetry for Ocean-color Remote-sensing Applications [MORE]
Events marked with an asterisk (*) are tentative.
FEB 14, 2018Ocean Sciences Meeting Town Hall - PACE: NASA’s Next Generation Aerosol, Cloud and Ocean Color Satellite Mission AGU »
JAN 24, 2018Webinar: Bio-optical in situ Data Discovery and Access with SeaBass [MORE]
JAN 16-18, 2018Science Team Meeting (Fort Pierce, FL)
NOV 2, 2017NASA/WRI Workshop on Use of Satellite Data for Ocean Health and Fisheries Eventbrite »
JUL 10 - AUG 5, 2017Ocean Optics Summer Course [MORE]
MAY 15-18, 2017International Ocean Colour Science Meeting 2017 IOCS »
MAR 27, 2017Key Decision Point - B
JAN 24-26, 2017Mission System Requirements Review
JAN 17-19, 2017PACE Science Team Meeting
DEC 13, 2016PACE Town Hall at AGU Fall Meeting AGU »
AUG 18, 2016Acquisition Strategy Meeting
JUN 30, 2016OCI PACE Mission Preliminary Design Webinar [MORE]
JUN 2016Key Decision Point - Phase A NASA »
MAR 2016Mission Concept Review
JAN 2016PACE Science Team Meeting NASA PACE »
JAN 2015PACE Science Team Meeting NASA PACE »
MAR 2012PACE Science Definition Team Meeting NASA PACE »
NOV 2011PACE Science Definition Team Meeting NASA PACE »
PACE Overview
Earth surface spatial resolution at nadir of 1 kilometer2 (0.4 miles2) or better for all science bands.
Nominal spacecraft altitude is 676.5 kilometers (420 miles) with an inclination of 98°.
OCI will have 2-day global coverage at 60° instrument view angle.
Downlink and storage of the complete 5-nanometer resolution data from spacecraft to ground at 600 Mbps.
The PACE spacecraft will store information collected over 7 orbits, totaling about 1.7 terabytes (1.7x1012 bytes) of data.
Monthly characterization of instrument detector and optical component changes using lunar observations through the Earth-viewing port that illuminate all science detector elements. Daily solar calibrations.
PACE is being implemented as a NASA Class C mission with a notional launch date in the 2022-2023 timeframe and a minimum mission duration of three years, with orbit maintenance capabilities for 10 years.
PACE is designed as a design-to-cost mission, meaning that it has a fixed budget cap.

Mission Architecture