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Proceedings Paper

Results from an experiment that collected visible-light polarization data using unresolved imagery for classification of geosynchronous satellites
Author(s): Andy Speicher; Mohammad Matin; Roger Tippets; Francis Chun; David Strong
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Paper Abstract

In order to protect critical military and commercial space assets, the United States Space Surveillance Network must have the ability to positively identify and characterize all space objects. Unfortunately, positive identification and characterization of space objects is a manual and labor intensive process today since even large telescopes cannot provide resolved images of most space objects. The objective of this study was to collect and analyze visible-spectrum polarization data from unresolved images of geosynchronous satellites taken over various solar phase angles. Different collection geometries were used to evaluate the polarization contribution of solar arrays, thermal control materials, antennas, and the satellite bus as the solar phase angle changed. Since materials on space objects age due to the space environment, their polarization signature may change enough to allow discrimination of identical satellites launched at different times. Preliminary data suggests this optical signature may lead to positive identification or classification of each satellite by an automated process on a shorter timeline. The instrumentation used in this experiment was a United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) Department of Physics system that consists of a 20-inch Ritchey-Chrétien telescope and a dual focal plane optical train fed with a polarizing beam splitter. Following a rigorous calibration, polarization data was collected during two nights on eight geosynchronous satellites built by various manufacturers and launched several years apart. When Stokes parameters were plotted against time and solar phase angle, the data indicates that a polarization signature from unresolved images may have promise in classifying specific satellites.

Paper Details

Date Published: 19 May 2015
PDF: 14 pages
Proc. SPIE 9460, Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) Systems and Applications XII, 946006 (19 May 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2177528
Show Author Affiliations
Andy Speicher, Univ. of Denver (United States)
Mohammad Matin, Univ. of Denver (United States)
Roger Tippets, U.S. Air Force Academy (United States)
Francis Chun, U.S. Air Force Academy (United States)
David Strong, U.S. Air Force Academy (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9460:
Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) Systems and Applications XII
Daniel J. Henry; Gregory J. Gosian; Davis A. Lange; Dale Linne von Berg; Thomas J. Walls; Darrell L. Young, Editor(s)

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