A large depth-of-field particle image velocimeter (PIV) is designed to characterize dynamic dust environments on planetary surfaces. This instrument detects lofted dust particles, and senses the number of particles per unit volume, measuring their sizes, velocities (both speed and direction), and shape factors when the particles are large. To measure these particle characteristics in-flight, the instrument gathers twodimensional image data at a high frame rate, typically >4,000 Hz, generating large amounts of data for every second of operation, approximately 6 GB/s.

To characterize a planetary dust environment that is dynamic, the instrument would have to operate for at least several minutes during an observation period, easily producing more than a terabyte of data per observation. Given current technology, this amount of data would be very difficult to store onboard a spacecraft, and downlink to Earth. Since 2007, innovators have been developing an autonomous image analysis algorithm architecture for the PIV instrument to greatly reduce the amount of data that it has to store and downlink. The algorithm analyzes PIV images and automatically reduces the image information down to only the particle measurement data that is of interest, reducing the amount of data that is handled by more than 103. The state of development for this innovation is now fairly mature, with a functional algorithm architecture, along with several key pieces of algorithm logic, that has been proven through field test data acquired with a proof-of-concept PIV instrument.

This work was done by Brent Bos, Nargess Memarsadeghi, Semion Kizhner, and Scott Antonille of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-15960-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the March, 2013 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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