Sensors 2014, 14(2), 2703-2731; doi:10.3390/s140202703
Article

A Low Cost Automatic Detection and Ranging System for Space Surveillance in the Medium Earth Orbit Region and Beyond

1 Computer Science Department, Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, Memorandumului 28, Cluj-Napoca 400114, Romania 2 Romanian Academy, Astronomical Observatory Cluj-Napoca, Cireşilor 19, Cluj-Napoca 400487, Romania
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 29 November 2013; in revised form: 24 January 2014 / Accepted: 28 January 2014 / Published: 11 February 2014
(This article belongs to the Section Physical Sensors)
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Abstract: The space around the Earth is filled with man-made objects, which orbit the planet at altitudes ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of kilometers. Keeping an eye on all objects in Earth’s orbit, useful and not useful, operational or not, is known as Space Surveillance. Due to cost considerations, the space surveillance solutions beyond the Low Earth Orbit region are mainly based on optical instruments. This paper presents a solution for real-time automatic detection and ranging of space objects of altitudes ranging from below the Medium Earth Orbit up to 40,000 km, based on two low cost observation systems built using commercial cameras and marginally professional telescopes, placed 37 km apart, operating as a large baseline stereovision system. The telescopes are pointed towards any visible region of the sky, and the system is able to automatically calibrate the orientation parameters using automatic matching of reference stars from an online catalog, with a very high tolerance for the initial guess of the sky region and camera orientation. The difference between the left and right image of a synchronized stereo pair is used for automatic detection of the satellite pixels, using an original difference computation algorithm that is capable of high sensitivity and a low false positive rate. The use of stereovision provides a strong means of removing false positives, and avoids the need for prior knowledge of the orbits observed, the system being able to detect at the same time all types of objects that fall within the measurement range and are visible on the image.
Keywords: space surveillance; stereo vision; automatic calibration; object detection; ranging

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MDPI and ACS Style

Danescu, R.; Ciurte, A.; Turcu, V. A Low Cost Automatic Detection and Ranging System for Space Surveillance in the Medium Earth Orbit Region and Beyond. Sensors 2014, 14, 2703-2731.

AMA Style

Danescu R, Ciurte A, Turcu V. A Low Cost Automatic Detection and Ranging System for Space Surveillance in the Medium Earth Orbit Region and Beyond. Sensors. 2014; 14(2):2703-2731.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Danescu, Radu; Ciurte, Anca; Turcu, Vlad. 2014. "A Low Cost Automatic Detection and Ranging System for Space Surveillance in the Medium Earth Orbit Region and Beyond." Sensors 14, no. 2: 2703-2731.

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