The Debris Examination Using Ballistic and Radar Integrated Software (DEBRIS) program was developed to provide rapid and accurate analysis of debris observed by the NASA Debris Radar (NDR). This software provides a greatly improved analysis capacity over earlier manual processes, allowing for up to four times as much data to be analyzed by one-quarter of the personnel required by earlier methods. There are two applications that comprise the DEBRIS system: the Automated Radar Debris Examination Tool (ARDENT) and the primary DEBRIS tool.

The debris radars were established to provide insight into debris events for all future space shuttle flights. Often, the debris particles are either too small or moving too quickly to be accurately characterized in any other way. Data must be rapidly and accurately analyzed in order to assess the threat environment from ascent debris. The DEBRIS tools offer that capability, and were specifically tailored to the needs of the debris analysis mission.

The ARDENT application is intended to autonomously identify, characterize, annotate, and perform statistics on debris tracks from 150 seconds after launch to loss of signal at the far horizon. The DEBRIS application is intended primarily for analysis of the data within the first 150 seconds of flight. It allows the user to explore the available data and annotate observed debris events and tracks. It also allows ballistic analysis of an annotated event, and allows the user to display all annotated events for the mission and the associated meta information for those events.

The ARDENT debris detection algorithm uses a Multi-scale Localized Radon Transform (MSLRT) optimized for this application. The MSLRT computes a localized Radon transform of blocks of the data for multiple block sizes (or scales) to form an aggregated (across scales) debris track detection map based on identifying piece-wise linear features in the data. The DEBRIS tool consolidates and extends the capability of several discrete applications developed early in the NDR technology maturation process; specifically, data viewing, annotation of candidate debris events, and various elements of trajectory analysis. This consolidation dramatically streamlines the analysis process and the amount of overhead in both time and effort needed to fully process the debris risk portion of the shuttle ascent.

The ballistic and radar signature products of these tools allow assessment of debris material type, shape, size, and release location — information that is used to determine threat to the current mission as well as flight safety for future missions. The analysis efficiencies afforded by these tools allow detailed threat assessment of tens of gigabytes of data within three days of launch.

This work was done by Anthony Griffith, Matthew Schottel, David Lee, Robert Scully, and Joseph Hamilton of Johnson Space Center; Brian Kent, Christopher Thomas, Jonathan Benson, and Eric Branch of the U.S. Air Force; and Paul Hardman and Martin Stuble of NAVAIR (Patuxent) Department of the Navy. MSC-24827-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.