UND Student-Built Ag Camera Captures Minot Flood Images from International Space Station

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News Article

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College of Engineering & Mines


While still performing on-orbit engineering checkout activities, the University of North Dakota-build International Space Station Agricultural Camera (ISSACtm) this weekend collected imagery of the Souris River flooding in Minot. The camera, which was designed and built and is operated by students and faculty at UND, ISSAC just began operations two weeks ago.

“We are still learning the sensor’s capabilities and are not yet ready for routine operations, but we wanted to see if there was any way ISSAC could be of use to the various flood fights going on across the state,” said Doug Olsen, Project Manager for ISSAC at UND.

Taken at 07:42 p.m. on Friday evening, June 24, the Minot image clearly shows the swollen Souris river filling the valley upstream, and sending water down through the heart of the city. Taken just prior to the river’s crest on Sunday night, the image shows extensive flooding in downtown Minot, and in residential areas along the river.

For comparison, an image of the same area, taken by the US Geological Survey’s Landsat spacecraft last year, shows the Souris as a thin black line snaking through the valley, now entirely covered by water in the ISSAC image.

ISSAC is a one-of-a-kind earth-observing sensor mounted in the International Space Station’s Window Observation Research Facility (WORF) and is capable of re-visiting a particular ground location more frequently than other space-based assets.

The ISSAC sensor collects imagery in both visible and infrared light, the latter particularly useful in determining health of vegetation, such as farm fields. As an added bonus, water appears black in the infrared channel, making it particularly useful in identifying areas under water.

Led by the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, the ISSAC payload was built as a collaborative project between the Odegard School and the School of Engineering and Mines, with support by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). ISSAC is being operated and controlled remotely by students working in the ISSAC Science Operations Center, or SOC, which is located in Clifford Hall on the UND campus.


The International Space Station Agricultural Camera (ISSAC) is a multi-spectral imaging system mounted onboard the International Space Station in the US’s Destiny module inside the Window Observation Research Facility.

The system is capable of high-temporal imaging (multi-week to multi-day) from the ISS which has the potential to dramatically increase opportunities to obtain cloud-free images at spatial resolutions and wavelengths applicable to end-user analysis of in-field variability and vegetative conditions.

ISSAC is expected to image for three growing seasons for farming applications as well as cater to a number of research partners conducting worldwide studies of glaciers, grasslands, forests, and other ecosystems. Collected images will be down-linked, processed and delivered to end-users within 24-48 hours of acquisition. The ISSAC project has employed more than 60 UND students from disciplines such as engineering, aerospace, computer science, entrepreneurship and space studies in its more than 10-year history.

For more information and to watch a video of ISSAC’s history and current operation.

About UMAC

The Northern Great Plains Center for People and the Environment was established at the University of North Dakota in April 2001. It is the lead component of the Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium (UMAC), which includes participants from academia, industry, and government in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. The vision of the Center is to build and nurture learning communities, creating an integrated view of all Earth’s systems, in order to serve humankind’s needs and desires for a sustainable and prosperous future. For more information about UMAC visit http://www.umac.org.