Event-based Sensing for Space Situational Awareness

  • Gregory CohenEmail author
  • Saeed Afshar
  • Brittany Morreale
  • Travis Bessell
  • Andrew Wabnitz
  • Mark Rutten
  • André van Schaik


A revolutionary type of imaging device, known as a silicon retina or event-based sensor, has recently been developed and is gaining in popularity in the field of artificial vision systems. These devices are inspired by a biological retina and operate in a significantly different way to traditional CCD-based imaging sensors. While a CCD produces frames of pixel intensities, an event-based sensor produces a continuous stream of events, each of which is generated when a pixel detects a change in log light intensity. These pixels operate asynchronously and independently, producing an event-based output with high temporal resolution. There are also no fixed exposure times, allowing these devices to offer a very high dynamic range independently for each pixel. Additionally, these devices offer high-speed, low power operation and a sparse spatio-temporal output. As a consequence, the data from these sensors must be interpreted in a significantly different way to traditional imaging sensors and this paper explores the advantages this technology provides for space imaging. The applicability and capabilities of event-based sensors for SSA applications are demonstrated through telescope field trials. Trial results have confirmed that the devices are capable of observing resident space objects from LEO through to GEO orbital regimes. Significantly, observations of RSOs were made during both day-time and night-time (terminator) conditions without modification to the camera or optics. The event based sensor’s ability to image stars and satellites during day-time hours offers a dramatic capability increase for terrestrial optical sensors. This paper shows the field testing and validation of two different architectures of event-based imaging sensors. An event-based sensor’s asynchronous output has an intrinsically low data-rate. In addition to low-bandwidth communications requirements, the low weight, low-power and high-speed make them ideally suitable to meeting the demanding challenges required by space-based SSA systems. Results from these experiments and the systems developed highlight the applicability of event-based sensors to ground and space-based SSA tasks.


Neuromorphic Event-based SSA Daytime 


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Copyright information

© American Astronautical Society 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The MARCS Institute for Brain, Behavior and DevelopmentWestern Sydney UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.United States Air ForceWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.National Security and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance DivisionDefence Science and Technology GroupCanberraAustralia

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