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Space Signatures for Rapid Unambiguous Identification of Satellites


OBJECTIVE: Define and demonstrate approaches to establish and maintain rapid and reliable positive object identification of individual satellites in orbit through sparse but regular data collection. DESCRIPTION: Current methodologies supporting the maintenance of the satellite catalog based upon information derived from the Space Surveillance Network are inadequate to enable a proactive approach to certain issues relevant to Space Situational Awareness (SSA). Among the challenges for SSA is the capability to maintain active custody of individual satellites. Some objects are frequently lost and sometimes serendipitously reacquired without recognition of its previous catalog existence unless manpower-intensive analysis intervenes to uncover the situation for some cases. Maintaining custody of a large number of satellites is a leap in capability requiring innovative solutions that are amenable to automation in order to be feasible for implementation. The challenge of maintaining custody is magnified in certain crowded regions of space by the sheer number of objects present, the fact that most active satellites perform periodic but unannounced maneuvers for orbit and/or attitude corrections, dynamical models are approximate, and a certain number of faint objects are marginally detectable thus forming a sort of background clutter. Active custody encompasses the indication for when objects are missing, action to identify and search likely regions for reacquisition, and positive identification of a reacquired object as the previously missing object. Timeliness and accuracy in the identification of reacquired objects are key performance metrics. Positive identification of satellites is linked to defining signatures that are predictable and uniquely indicating the presence of some feature(s) of an object, manifesting from its physical and/or operational attributes. For objects in space, signatures may stem from any observable phenomenology that may be remotely sensed from ground-based or space-based instrumentation. A collection of appropriately selected signatures may be sufficient to unambiguously identify individual satellites, even among those of common manufacturers and of similar bus types. Combining signature information with orbital dynamics modeling may increase confidence in the identification of reacquired objects. PHASE I: Develop an initial concept design and model key elements for a feasible approach to establish and maintain positive identification of individual satellites, including active payloads and tumbling objects. Phase I deliverables will include a detailed report of the chosen approach. PHASE II: Develop, demonstrate, and validate through high simulation and/or real data if suitable test cases are available the approach proposed in Phase I. Develop a detailed mathematical or parametric relationship between available observation data and the probability of maintaining custody. Initial target TRL at beginning of Phase II effort is 2, and target TRL at conclusion of Phase II is 5. Required Phase II deliverables will include documented algorithms, detailed reports of validation efforts and findings, and software implementations used to demonstrate and validate the approach. PHASE III: Most likely path for transition of this effort is through the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) Mission System (JMS) with the end user being the JSpOC. Additional efforts may be required to mature the technology to TRL 6. Potential commercial applications include establishing attribution for radio frequency interference or any other actions that may result in loss of service to the detriment of a payload operator.
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