Abstract

Space object detection is of great importance in the highly dependent yet competitive and congested space domain. The detection algorithms employed play a crucial role in fulfilling the detection component in the space situational awareness mission to detect, track, characterize, and catalog unknown space objects. Many current space detection algorithms use a matched filter or a spatial correlator on long-exposure data to make a detection decision at a single pixel point of a spatial image based on the assumption that the data follow a Gaussian distribution. Long-exposure imaging is critical to detection performance in these algorithms; however, for imaging under daylight conditions, it becomes necessary to create a long-exposure image as the sum of many short-exposure images. This paper explores the potential for increasing detection capabilities for small and dim space objects in a stack of short-exposure images dominated by a bright background. The algorithm proposed in this paper improves the traditional stack and average method of forming a long-exposure image by selectively removing short-exposure frames of data that do not positively contribute to the overall signal–to-noise ratio of the averaged image. The performance of the algorithm is compared to a traditional matched filter detector using data generated in MATLAB as well as laboratory-collected data. The results are illustrated on a receiver operating characteristic curve to highlight the increased probability of detection associated with the proposed algorithm.

© 2018 Optical Society of America

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