The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) is the first spaceborne hyperspectral sensor designed specifically for the coastal ocean and estuarial, riverine, or other shallow-water areas. The HICO generates hyperspectral images, primarily over the 400–900 nm spectral range, with a ground sample distance of ≈90 m (at nadir) and a high signal-to-noise ratio. The HICO is now operating on the International Space Station (ISS). Its cross-track and along-track fields of view are 42 km (at nadir) and 192 km, respectively, for a total scene area of 8000 km2. The HICO is an innovative prototype sensor that builds on extensive experience with airborne sensors and makes extensive use of commercial off-the-shelf components to build a space sensor at a small fraction of the usual cost and time. Here we describe the instrument’s design and characterization and present early images from the ISS.