As more nations become active in space, there is increasing need for Space Situational Awareness. A particular priority for both the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense is timely information about systems and activities in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit. In its recent Report on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 the Senate Armed Services Committee identified the need for development of ground-based capabilities for passive imagery of GEO objects to provide a credible layer of accountability for behavior in space.
Due to their distance from ground-based observers (35,786km altitude) GEO objects are both small and dim – sufficiently small that telescopic observation cannot provide imagery of sufficient resolution for SSA needs. As a result, ground-based approaches to image GEO objects have focused on development of interferometers. Examples of current efforts include the Naval Precision Optical Interferometer and the Magdalena Ridge Optical Interferometer, both of which have active research programs in GEO imaging. Because GEO objects are dim, however, finding and measuring the interference fringes developed between any two apertures in the interferometer is challenging. The complex shape of GEO objects also reduces inherent signal strength in the fringes resulting in a fringe tracking and fringe measurement problem that becomes rapidly more difficult at the longer interferometer baselines required for high resolution image reconstruction.
Previous attempts to overcome the daunting challenges associated with GEO imaging have resulted in multiple design approaches that incorporate relatively large apertures (1-2m). In order to acquire enough baseline measurements for image reconstruction in a reasonably short period of time, the number of apertures required leads to prohibitively high system costs. The objective of the Amon-Hen program is to develop novel approaches to ground-based GEO imaging that enable rapid collection of data for inteferometric image reconstruction of GEO objects at low cost. One potential approach is to use a large number of small apertures. In addition to reducing costs, small aperture approaches could also enable simultaneous measurements at a large number of baselines, reducing acquisition timelines and increasing the number of GEO objects that can be imaged in a single evening. The Government is interested in all technical approaches that meet the Amon-Hen program goals regardless of the nature of the proposed solutions.
The goal of the Amon-Hen program is the development of a low-cost, passive, ground-based, optical interferometer that can:
• Make measurements necessary to fully resolve those images to 12.5 nanoradian angular resolution and with image interpretability equivalent to Space Object Rating Scale Level 6 or better
• Develop image reconstruction techniques that afford timely image development – at a minimum, all data collected on a given evening should be converted to final imagery before the next evening’s data collection
• Data collection for a single GEO object must be completed in less than one hour
• Brightness detection thresholds must be consistent with GEO objects at baselines consistent with 12.5 nanoradian resolution and may vary depending on the Proposers’ approach
Contracting Office Address
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity
Washington, DC 20511
Primary Point of Contact
Solicitation Status: OPEN
BAA Release Date: June 12, 2017
BAA Question Period: June 12, 2017–June 30, 2017
Proposal Due Date: August 11, 2017
Proposers' Day Briefings