LIGHT CURVE SIMULATION AND SHAPE INVERSION FOR HUMAN-MADE SPACE OBJECTS
Characterizing unknown space objects is an important component of robust space situational awareness. Estimating the shape of an object allows analysts to perform more accurate orbit propagation, probability of collision, and inference analysis about the object’s origin. Due to the sheer distance from the camera combined with diffraction and atmospheric ef- fects, most resident space objects of interest are unresolved when observed from the ground with electro-optical sensors. State of the art techniques for object characterization often rely on light curves — the time history of the object’s observed brightness. The brightness of the object is a function of the object’s shape, material properties, attitude profile, as well as the observation geometry. The process of measuring real light curves is complex, involv- ing the physics of the object, the sensor, and the background environment. The process of recovering shape information from brightness measurements is known as the light curve shape inversion problem. This problem is ill-posed without further assumptions: modern direct shape inversion methods require that the attitude profile and material properties of the object is known, or at least can be hypothesized. This work describes improvements to light curve simulation that faithfully model the environmental and sensor effects present in true light curves, yielding synthetic measurements with more accurate noise characteris- tics. Having access to more accurate light curves is important for developing and validating light curve inversion methods. This work also presents new methods for direct shape inver- sion for convex and nonconvex objects with realistic measurement noise. In particular, this work finds that improvements to the convex shape inversion process produce more accurate, sparser geometry in less time. The proposed nonconvex shape inversion method is effective at resolving singular large concave feature.
- Master of Science
- Aeronautics and Astronautics
- West Lafayette