CHRIS Overview

Instrument Description

CHRIS is an AO hyperspectral instrument whose objective is the collection of BRDF (Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function) data for a better understanding of spectral reflectances. CHRIS is the prime instrument of the PROBA-1 mission. The technology objective is to explore the capabilities of imaging spectrometers on agile small satellite platforms. CHRIS provides 19 spectral bands (fully programmable) in the VNIR range (400 - 1050 nm) at a GSD (Ground Sampling Distance) of 17 m. Each nominal image forms a square of 13 km x 13 km on the ground (at perigee).

The observation of the square target area consists in 5 consecutive pushbroom scans by the single-line array detectors, each scan is executed at different view angles to the target within a 55º cone centered at the target zenith. The pushbroom velocity at the target must be reduced by a factor of 5 compared to nominal nadir-pointing velocity in order to increase optimal exposure time. CHRIS can be reconfigured to provide 63 spectral bands at a spatial resolution of about 34 m.The spectral band sets are 19 band read out at 17 m GSD. The CHRIS design is capable of providing up to 150 channels over the spectral range of 400-1050 nm.

CHRIS Technical Characteristics
Accuracy 150 arcsec
Spatial Resolution 18 or 36m
Swath Width 14 km, 18
Waveband 415-1050 nm



The Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (CHRIS) is an imaging spectrometer of basically conventional form, with a telescope forming an image of Earth onto the entrance slit of a spectrometer, and an area-array detector at the spectrometer focal plane. The instrument operates in a push-broom mode during Earth imaging. The platform provides pointing in both acrosstrack and along-track directions, for target acquisition and for Bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF) measurements.

The CHRIS instrument design comprises a catadioptric telescope, an imaging spectrometer, and an area detector array at the focal plane of the spectrometer. The technology objective is to explore the capabilities of imaging spectrometers on agile small satellite platforms.


The platform/instrument can be commanded to perform the following functions:

  • Target location - requiring roll manoeuvres to point cross-track
  • Viewing directions for each target in one orbit - requiring pitch manoeuvres to point along-track
  • Spectral bands and spectral sampling interval in each band
  • Programmed line integration and dumping on chip for spectral band selection
  • Pixel integration on chip for spatial resolution control
  • Correlated double sampling (noise reduction circuit)
  • Dynamic gain switch for optimum usage of the ADC resolution
  • Spatial sampling interval

The atmospheric science objectives of CHRIS focus on aerosols, which as well as being important for weather and climate, are also a consideration for accurate atmospheric correction of satellite data. Operational plans call for a total of 30 test sites: 15 for aerosol/atmosphere studies, 10 for land surface studies and five for coastal studies. Aerosol studies include a number of different continental, marine, urban and desert test sites. Land surface sites include temperate agricultural areas, boreal forests and semi-arid areas.

The combination of the PROBA platform and the CHRIS instrument provides unique potential for Earth imaging. It allows hyperspectral image data to be obtained at up to five different sensor view angles during a single orbital overpass through along-track pointing and, cloud-cover permitting, up to 15 looks at the same target within a period of a few days from multiple orbital overpasses. These data can be used to derive information on the biophysical and biochemical properties of the land surface, atmosphere and coastal and inland waters through, for example, the numerical or analytical inversion of BRDF models.

The platform also provides slow pitch during imaging in order to increase the integration time of the instrument. This increase in integration time is needed to achieve the target radiometric resolution, at the baseline spatial and spectral sampling interval, and also allows relatively large numbers of bands to be recorded. The pitch rate is varied, as a function of the view direction, to achieve a consistent 17 m alongtrack sampling distance associated with the nominal integration period. The integration time is increased, compared with that which would be achieved without pitch adjustment, by a factor 5.

The spectral waveband covered by the instrument is limited to 1050 nm in the near-IR by the upper limit for useful response of silicon detectors, and to 415 nm in short visible wavelengths by limitations of coating performance



The telescope design form is selected mainly for lowcost and easy assembly within a tight schedule for development. It is an axially-symmetrical two-mirror system, with a concave primary mirror and a convex secondary. Lens elements are used to allow all surfaces to be spherical, and to provide acceptable correction for a moderate field. The front element is a meniscus lens that essentially provides correction for spherical aberration; it also provides a convenient location for the secondary mirror, which is cemented to it.

Two small lens elements near the focal plane extend correction for off-axis aberrations, and correct chromatic aberration of the meniscus.

Focal Length 746 mm
Length - lens 1 to slit 325 mm
Baffle Length 150 mm
Entrance Pupil at front lens
Exit Pupil telecentric
Aperture Diameter 120 mm
Aperture Obscuration 58 mm x 66 mm
Field Angle 1.3 degrees
Lens Material fused quartz


All optical components are made of fused quartz, except for the primary mirror; the primary is in a common optical glass to provide an approximate CTE match with titanium structure, in order to control variations in focus with temperature. The lenses are broad-band anti-reflection coated for the range 415 nm to 1050 nm. The mirror coatings are multiple dielectric layers, providing >98% reflectance over this range.

The axially symmetrical design allows easy manufacture, but has some significant disadvantages. A large axial obstruction of the aperture (by the secondary mirror) reduces the efficiency of the system as a function of optics diameters. There are detailed problems in control of stray light that can reach the entrance slit without reflection at either mirror.

Most significantly, efficient anti-reflection coatings are needed to control stray light due to double reflections within the telescope system. Good anti-reflection coatings are not feasible for much wider spectral ranges, so that the design will be considered inappropriate for systems covering the short-wave IR spectral band (SWIR, typically out to 2400 nm), in addition to the visible/near-IR (VNIR) band current covered by CHRIS.


CHRIS Spectrometer

Magnification Unity
Spectral spread over 22.5 microns at detector

1.25 nm at 400 nm

11 nm at 1050 nm

Length, slit to rear mirror 265 mm
Width, slit to detector 125 mm


Spectral dispersion is provided by refracting prisms that are integrated into a mirror relay system. The relay comprises three mirrors, two large concave mirrors and one smaller convex mirror, similar to a conventional Offner configuration that gives unit magnification. The Offner does not provide a collimated light path, in which flat prism surfaces would introduce no image-blurring aberrations. It is desirable for the prism surfaces to be curved in order to provide good spatial and spectral resolution at the focal plane.

The curvatures essentially provide control over spherical aberration; other aberrations are controlled by the balance between angles of incidence on surfaces of the prisms and mirrors. A minimum of two prisms – one in a diverging beam and one in a converging beam – is needed to control a higher-order astigmatism term (at 45. to the principle plane and varying linearly with field angle) that is introduced by axial asymmetry. The design has only spherical surfaces. It uses fused quartz for the prisms; the spectrometer mirrors are made in a common optical glass, as for the telescope primary.

The design using curved prisms is capable of correction for the distortions of the final image that are usually called "smile" and "frown". Smile is curvature and tilt of the image of a straight entrance slit, which introduces a nonuniformity in the wavelengths defined by each row of detector elements. Frown is a variation in tilt of the spectra associated with each point on ground, introducing errors in spatial registration of spectral data read from parallel detector columns.

The spectrometer provides registration to better than 5% of the pixel in both spectral and spatial directions, with resolution limited essentially by the detector pixel size.



In the axially symmetrical telescope design, stray light can arrive at the entrance slit without reflection at either of the two telescope mirrors. In the section orthogonal to the slit, this stray path is blocked effectively by a slot baffle in front of the small lens assembly. This does not prevent stray light from reaching the slit from areas of the aperture on either side of the secondary mirror, in the section parallel with the slit. However, this stray light is blocked inside the spectrometer by masks located between the secondary and tertiary mirrors, where the optics form an image of the secondary mirror.

The external baffle does not have a very significant role in control of stray light, marginally reducing scatter from telescope optics by reducing their illumination of from the scene. The external baffle is needed mainly to limit temperature variations in spectrometer optics due to variations in radiant inputs from the scene; for this purpose, the baffle is metallic, and conductively coupled to the telescope structure.


Structure and thermal design

The telescope and spectrometer are constructed mainly in titanium – this choice dictated mainlyby considerations of cost and manufacturing schedule. An optical bench approach is used for the spectrometer, while conventional cylindrical structures are used for the axially-symmetrical telescope. Telescope and spectrometer are mounted on a common titanium bulkhead. Aluminium is used for baffles, the spectrometer cover and a radiation shield for the detector. The detector is mounted on a 1 kgm block of aluminium to provide thermal inertia.

The system is conductively isolated from the platform by use of three low-conductivity feet that also provide flexure to isolate the instrument from stresses induced by differential expansion with respect to the (aluminium) mounting plate. Radiant isolation is provided by MLI wrapping of the instrument.

Orbital temperature variations are driven mainly by variation in radiant input from Earth in the solar spectral band. This produces a few degrees temperature variation in the telescope front optics – not enough to have a significant effect on telescope resolution. The spectrometer is effectively isolated from this front-end variation by the low conductivity of the titanium structure.


Detectors and Electronics

Venice from CHRIS PROBA
The city of Venice shown by microsatellite Proba

The CCD detector is an area array from e2v (CCD25-20) with 1152 rows and 780 columns, and a 22.5 x 22.5 μm pixel size. The device is thinned and back-illuminated to provide good blue response. It operates in a frame transfer mode, with 576 rows in the image and masked storage zones. The opaque mask is extended along the sides of the image zone to provide 16 transition and dark reference pixels at each end of each CCD row, which are used for dark signal and electronic offset calibration. The spectrometer image fills <200 of the CCD rows, but part of the nominally-unexposed area is used to provide data to compensate for stray light and CCD smear effects. The CCD incorporates a dump gate adjacent to the readout shift register. This provides a facility for fast parallel dumping of charge for regions of the CHRIS spectrum that are not selected for readout.

The instrument electronics include:

  • programmed line integration and dumping on chip for spectral band selection
  • pixel integration on chip for spatial resolution control
  • correlated double sampling (noise reduction circuit)
  • dynamic gain switch for optimum usage of the ADC resolution
  • 12 bit ADC.

There is considerable useful flexibility in operation of the CCD. It offers the facility to sum sets of row-signals in the shift register, before read-out – providing users with a facility to compose spectral bands of optimum widths. Signals can also be binned in pairs at the output port, relaxing across-track spatial resolution by a factor 2, and integration time can be increased over a wide range to provide control of spatial resolution along-track (in combination with control over the platform pitch rate). The system also allows images to be restricted to half swath widths to increase the number of spectral bands that can be read out. It is possible to read out 18 spectral bands during a nominal integration time of 12.7 ms, plus one band assigned to smear/stray light calibration in each frame.

This spectral coverage is associated with optimum spatial resolution and maximum swath width. However, it is possible to read out much larger numbers of spectral bands with relaxation of spatial resolution and/or swath width. Relaxed ground sampling distance (associated with increased integration periods) provides enhanced signal-to-noise ratios.

Relaxed ground sampling distance (associated with increased integration periods) provides enhanced signal-to-noise ratios.

Offset dark signal and smear The CHRIS detectors provide masked and overscan pixels in each row, that are used to provide data on electronic offsets and average dark signal levels. Full-frame dark calibration is achieved by a combination of data from full dark-field frames, read while the platform is over dark Earth areas, with masked pixel data.

The masked pixel data is used to correct the full dark fields for effects of temperature drifts between dark-scene and light-scene measurements. The CCD generates an error due to collection of signal during frame transfer. The error is a weighted average of the signal collected over the whole image area in each column, and is measured using detector rows outside the image area, which receive only the smear signal during frame transfer.


Response and wavelength calibration

The Etna crater, Italy - CHRIS image - 30 October 2002

Vicarious methods have been used to provide response calibration for CHRIS. Flat-fielding (relative response between pixels across the field, in each spectrally resolved band) has relied on analysis of data from real scenes, with preference for bland scenes, to detect pixel-topixel response variations. In-flight wavelength calibration relies on location of the oxygen absorption band at 762 nm, using image data from suitable scenes. This again avoids the need for potentially expensive addition flight hardware.

The atmosphere absorption data is used to update full pre-flight data, including smile errors. The instrument also includes a "solar calibration device" , which is attached to the instrument at the front end of the external baffle. It is a very simple system, comprising essentially a plano-convex lens in fused quartz, integrated with a prism that reflects sunlight into the lens.

The lens has a focal length of 25 mm, and forms an image of the sun approximately 0.2mm diameter outside the telescope pupil. The light from the sun image spreads over the small field of the instrument to fill the spectrometer entrance slit and the detector image area.

The focal length of the lens is selected, as a fraction of the aperture diameter, to provide an effective radiance (actual sun-image radiance averaged over the instrument aperture area) equivalent to that of a diffuser in sunlight with 25% reflectance. It therefore provides signals in the instrument dynamic range. The device has been calibrated on ground for effective reflectance, using a sun-simulator and a standard diffuser, so that it can be used like a full-aperture diffuser in flight.

The solar calibration device occupies a fixed position in the instrument aperture, and uses a small fraction of the aperture for response calibration. This slightly reduces the aperture area available for useful Earth imaging.

During normal Earth imaging, the solar calibration device projects very little light into the main instrument aperture. It is used for calibration when the instrument is over the Antarctic, on the dark side of the terminator – the instrument is in direct sunlight but receiving very little light from ground.

The platform must be yawed to receive sunlight on the lens axis. The field of the device for receiving sunlight is limited to 2. x 4. by a rectangular aperture in the sun-image plane. This field is fully sampled, in pre-flight calibration and in orbit, to check for non-uniformities in transmission of the device and instrument optics over a small area and thus to detect signs of local optics contamination that would obstruct the narrow calibration beam and invalidate the calibration.

The key advantage of the solar calibration device, for the CHRIS development, is that it is very cheap and simple compared with a system using one or more full-aperture diffusers. Because the device uses a small, dedicated aperture area, it requires no moving parts. A clear disadvantage is that it samples only a very small part of the main instrument aperture, so that changes in optics transmission that are notuniform across the aperture will not be accurately measured. 

An internal LED source is included in the instrument, close to the detector. Light from the LED is reflected onto the detector by a diffuser mounted above the detector, but out of the main light path.

The initial purpose of the LED was only to check function of the detection system during integration, but the LED has also been used to check linearity in flight.

Payload temperature is measured during each image acquisition. Changes in radiometric and wavelength calibration are investigated as a function of the indicated spectrometer temperatures.

Pre-flight calibration support important pre-flight calibration exercises for CHRIS include:

  • Absolute radiometric response and calibration of the solar calibration device in operation with a sun-simulator,
  • Full wavelength calibration against detector row numbers.

Other normal measurements made on ground included: spectral and spatial resolution, spectral and spatial registration, temperature variations of wavelengths and registration, stray light, linearity, and detection system noise.

CHRIS Resources