NASA’s PACE project utilizes INGENERIC’s microlens arrays

Revolutionary technology for ocean exploration: NASA has taken a decisive step in the exploration of the oceans and atmosphere by launching the PACE project. This mission, which measures the “color of the oceans” from orbit, was successfully launched on February 8, 2024, when a NASA science satellite was sent into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Part of the equipment on board are microlens arrays from INGENERIC!

The NASA PACE mission (“Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem”) was developed by scientists over a period of 20 years to better understand the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere. The mission, which is scheduled to run until March 2027, will focus on researching plankton, aerosols and clouds in the coming months, as these factors play an important role in the global climate system.

NASA PACE satellite(Credit: NASA GSFC,

PACE is equipped with three state-of-the-art instruments: the Ocean Color Instrument (OCI), the Spectro-polarimeter for Planetary Exploration (SPEXone) and the Hyper Angular Research Polarimeter (HARP2). The purpose of these instruments is to study ocean color, aerosol concentration, cloud reflectance in the atmosphere and other relevant parameters. The data collected will help scientists to better understand the role of the ocean in regulating the climate, for example by studying carbon uptake by phytoplankton and the influence of aerosols and clouds on the climate.

The OCI is used for hyperspectral observation of the world’s oceans and covers the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared spectrum with a finer resolution than previous measurements of ocean color. This instrument observes the spectrum from 350 to 885 nanometers at intervals of five nanometers, in contrast to older multispectral instruments that only collected data at a few selected wavelengths.

The central component of the OCI is a microlens array from INGENERIC, which couples the received light in the short-wave infrared into a glass fiber bundle with high efficiency. During the development of the OCI, INGENERIC’s microlens arrays, which are manufactured using precision glass molding, proved to be far superior to etched arrays: they exceeded NASA’s original requirements and will thus contribute to a significant increase in efficiency when coupling the light from the ocean surface into the optical fibers of the satellite’s optical system.

Commenting on the significance of using INGENERIC’s microlens arrays in a groundbreaking project such as the PACE mission, Dr. Stefan Hambücker, CEO of INGENERIC, said:

“We are proud that our company has been able to prove itself as a supplier to NASA and impress them with the quality of our products. The use of our microlens arrays in the PACE mission underlines not only the technological excellence of our company, but also our shared commitment to the exploration and preservation of our planet. It is an honor to be part of a project that will deepen the understanding of the complex relationships between the ocean and atmosphere and ultimately contribute to a more sustainable future.”