An effort related to that described in the preceding article focuses on developing a spaceborne processing platform for fast and accurate onboard classification of image data, a critical part of modern satellite image processing. The approach again has been to exploit the versatility of recently developed hybrid Virtex-4FX field-programmable gate array (FPGA) to run diverse science applications on embedded processors while taking advantage of the reconfigurable hardware resources of the FPGAs. In this case, the FPGA serves as a coprocessor that implements legacy C-language support-vector-machine (SVM) image-classification algorithms to detect and identify natural phenomena such as flooding, volcanic eruptions, and sea-ice break-up. The FPGA provides hardware acceleration for increased onboard processing capability than previously demonstrated in software.

The original C-language program — demonstrated on an imaging instrument aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite — implements a linear-kernel SVM algorithm for classifying parts of the images as snow, water, ice, land, or cloud or unclassified. Current onboard processors, such as on EO-1, have limited computing power, extremely limited active storage capability and are no longer considered state-of-the-art. Using commercially available software that translates C-language programs into hardware description language (HDL) files, the legacy C-language program, and two newly formulated programs for a more capable expanded-linear-kernel and a more accurate polynomial-kernel SVM algorithm, have been implemented in the Virtex-4FX FPGA. In tests, the FPGA implementations have exhibited significant speedups over conventional software implementations running on general-purpose hardware.

This work was done by Paula J. Pingree, Lucas J. Scharenbroich, and Thomas A. Werne of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-45961

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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