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Proceedings Paper

Detecting small debris using a ground-based photon counting detector
Author(s): Cheng Ho; William C. Priedhorsky; Miles H. Baron
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Paper Abstract

We describe a sensitive technique for detecting small space debris that exploits a fast photon- counting imager. Microchannel plate detectors using crossed delay-line readout can achieve a resolution of 2048 X 2048 spatial pixels and a maximum count rate of about 106 photons per second. A baseline debris-tracking system might couple this detector to a 16-cm aperture telescope. The detector yields x, y, and time information for each detected photon. When visualized in (x,y,t) space, photons from a fast-moving orbital object appear on a straight line. They can be distinguished from diffuse background photons, randomly scattered in the space, and star photons, which fall on a line with sidereal velocity. By searching for this unique signature, we can detect and track small debris objects. At dawn and dusk, a spherical object of 1.3 cm diameter at 400 km will reflect sunlight for an apparent magnitude of V approximately equals 16. The baseline system would detect about 16 photons from this object as it crosses a 1 degree field of view in about 1 second. The line in (x,y,t) space will be significant in a diffuse background of approximately 106 photons. We discuss the data processing scheme and line detection algorithm. The advantages of this technique are that one can (1) detect cm-size debris objects with a small telescope, and (2) detect debris moving with any direction and velocity.

Paper Details

Date Published: 15 September 1993
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 1951, Space Debris Detection and Mitigation, (15 September 1993); doi: 10.1117/12.156561
Show Author Affiliations
Cheng Ho, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
William C. Priedhorsky, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)
Miles H. Baron, Los Alamos National Lab. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 1951:
Space Debris Detection and Mitigation
Firooz A. Allahdadi, Editor(s)

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