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Event Based Star Tracker for AFNWC Applications

Description:

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Sensing and Cyber; Space Technology The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Applicants must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Applicants are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws. OBJECTIVE: Develop a low SWAP, low cost, high angular rate star tracker for missile/rocket, and/or aircraft nuclear enterprise applications. DESCRIPTION: Existing star tracking attitude sensors are limited in their ability to operate above certain angular rates, thus rendering them useless for spinning and/or high angular rate rocket/missile applications. Recent advances in neuromorphic (a.k.a. event based) sensors have dramatically improved their overall performance, which allows them to be considered for higher angular rate applications. In addition, the difference between a traditional frame-based camera and an event-based camera is simply a matter of how the sensor is read out, which should allow for electronic switching between event based (i.e. high angular rate) and frame (i.e. low angular rate) modes within the star tracker. Additional advantages inherent in an event-based sensor include high temporal resolution (µs) and high dynamic range (140 dB), which could allow for multiple modes of continuous attitude determination (i.e. star tracking, sun sensor, earth limb sensor) within a single small, low cost sensor package. All technology solutions that meet the topic objective are solicited in this call, however, neuromorphic sensors appear ideally suited to meet the technical objectives and should therefore be considered in the solution trade space. The scope of this effort will be to first analyze the capability of event-based sensors to meet a high angular rate star tracker application, define the trade space for the technical solution against the nuclear enterprise requirements, develop a working prototype and test it against the requirements and in Phase 3 move to initial production of a commercial star tracker unit. PHASE I: Acquire existing state of the art COTS neuromorphic (a.k.a. event based) sensor or modify existing star tracking sensor as appropriate. Perform analysis and testing of the event-based sensor to determine feasibility in the high angular rate star tracking satellite and nuclear enterprise applications. PHASE II: Development of a prototype event based high angular rate star tracker. Ideally this prototype will have the ability to be operated in both event-based mode, as well as switch back and forth to standard (i.e. frame) mode. Explore and document the technical trade space (maximum angular rate, minimum detection threshold, associated algorithm development, etc.) and potential military/commercial application of the prototype device. All technology solutions that meet the topic objective are solicited in this call, however, neuromorphic sensors appear ideally suited to meet the technical objectives and should therefore be considered in the solution trade space. The scope of this effort will be to first analyze the capability of event-based sensors to meet a high angular rate star tracker application, define the trade space for the technical solution against the nuclear enterprise requirements, develop a working prototype and test it against the requirements. PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Phase 3 efforts will focus on transitioning the developed high angular rate attitude sensor technology to a working commercial and/or military solution. Potential applications include commercial and military aircraft, as well as missile/rocket applications. The information and materials provided pursuant to or resulting from this topic are restricted under the ITAR, 22 C.F.R. Parts 120 - 130 or the EAR, 15 C.F.R. Parts 710 - 774. REFERENCES: 1. Tat-Jun Chin, Samya Bagchiy, Anders Eriksson, Andr´e van Schaik, “Star Tracking using an Event Camera”, IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Workshops (CVPRW), arXiv:1812.02895, 13Apr2019.; 2. Guillermo Gallego et al, “Event-based Vision: A Survey”, IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, arXiv:1904.08405, 8Aug2020. KEYWORDS: Event based camera; neuromorphic sensor; high angular rate star tracker; small satellite
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