College of Engineering Receives Grant for Research in Remote Sensing of Space Debris for $600,000
LUCERO FIERRO | November 19, 2018
Miguel Velez-Reyes, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received a three-year grant to develop data-driven approaches to identify and monitor unresolved objects in space using hyperspectral remote sensing.
Velez-Reyes will be collaborating with James Frith, senior research scientist at the UTEP Center for the Advancement of Space Safety and Mission Assurance Research (CASSMAR) and ground-based measurements lead for Orbital Debris Research and Science Operations at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. They plan to integrate reflectance properties of known spacecraft materials with machine learning and physics-based signal processing techniques to disentangle measured, mixed spectral signatures from hyperspectral remote sensing imaging sensors. This work will be applied to material-type characterization of non-imaged resident space objects.
“Current ground-based space telescope technology cannot spatially resolve objects in space that are at Geosynchronous Orbit or that are very small like cube satellites,” Velez-Reyes said. “They will look like bright dots in an image. Hyperspectral remote sensing measurement makes it possible to identify those objects by extracting their material composition from measured high-spectral resolution reflectance data. Results from our work will contribute to improve situational awareness of the space environment surrounding U.S. space assets and help to detect any changes or potential threats.”
Joining forces in the fields of astronomy, spectroscopy and orbital debris observations, Velez-Reyes and Frith will also be working with two doctoral students to develop applicable algorithms and to build spectral libraries of typical spacecraft materials. This will further help to establish remote sensing techniques to monitor the space debris environment.
“We will be using remote sensing techniques with real and simulated ground-based telescopic data of orbital debris to extract information about the object’s material composition,” Frith said.
The project is supported by the Department of Defense under a grant from the Research and Education Program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.