TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Sensors, Electronics, Battlespace
OBJECTIVE: Improve glare reduction/rejection in daylight satellite tracking operations caused by close proximity to the Sun, reducing the exclusion angle around the Sun.
DESCRIPTION: The USAF requires the ability to track space objects in daylight. At present the Air Force daylight tracking telescopes are excluded from the area within about 15 degrees of the Sun due to glare that baffles are not able to block. Current methods of reducing glare involve modifying the telescope and the optics, e.g. baffles and optics coatings. The Directed Energy Directorate is interested in identifying and investigating technologies that could be applied to reduce or reject solar glare inexpensively. We are looking for innovative ways to reduce this exclusion zone to less than 15 degrees. Two concepts that have caught our eye are coded apertures and modulo cameras. Coded apertures have been shown to be effective in removing glare in terrestrial photography and we believe that it may have use in reducing the solar glare in daylight observations. The modulo camera uses a technology that removes the effects of glare/over exposure at the chip level, while leaving the unsaturated areas of the chip as they are. The over exposed areas are then computationally re-inserted with the result being an image showing no overexposed pixels. Both of these technologies show promise that these and/or other new techniques / technologies could be applied to meet the Air Force need to minimize the exclusion zone around the Sun. Modeling and simulation are highly desired to guide in the development of this technology. Software derived to improve image processing is also of interest. Development of a prototype device in Phase II that can be used to demonstrate the glare reduction is the principal goal of this SBIR. We believe any technology that meets the Air Force's needs could also be used in military or non-military applications for tracking airborne missiles, projectiles, aircraft, and even birds in close proximity to the Sun using optical systems. There is no requirement for the use of government materials, equipment, data, or facilities in the execution of this SBIR. The developed technology concept shall be demonstrated on commercial-off-the-shelf equipment to show its effectiveness in a generic telescope system. The technologies cited are just examples of potential technologies for this program and are not meant to limit exploration of other innovative technological solutions.
PHASE I: Identify technologies for reducing solar glare while tracking orbiting objects that visually pass close to the Sun. Perform modeling and simulation to determine technologies to reduce glare effects. Develop an initial concept design of the most promising technological solution. Produce a detailed analysis of predicted performance for this concept to reduce the exclusion angle by 25% with comparison to current glare reduction methods.
PHASE II: Develop, test, and demonstrate a prototype glare reducing sensor system, including any software and processing. This sensor system must be readily adaptable to work on standard, commercial-off-the-shelf telescopes (Meade, Celestron, etc.). Assess the utility and skill level required for implementation to carry out observations in the field under both ideal and non-ideal conditions (e.g., extreme temperatures or high humidity).
PHASE III: Manufacture and market sensors for customers who will be tracking objects that pass visually close to the Sun. Since the envisioned concept would be optics-agnostic it should open a wider field of customers who could benefit from this technology using standard lens assemblies.
KEYWORDS: Glare Reduction, Daylight Observation, Satellite Tracking, Solar Exclusion Angle