A computer program processes images acquired at different times by instrumentation aboard a spacecraft to detect small satellites of asteroids and other planetary bodies. The program coregisters the images, removes instrument artifacts and images of background stars, and performs a thresholding operation to suppress noise and generate binary versions of the images. The program then searches the binary images for persistent objects, which when found, are put on a list of candidate satellites. The entire process takes place automatically, without human intervention. The data on the candidate satellites can be sent to an autonomous spacecraft executive program for targeting of the spacecraft and/or its instrumentation. The program may also be adaptable to terrestrial use in automated detection of objects and avoidance of hazards. At present, the program runs under Matlab on Sun workstations running Solaris.

This program was written by Paul Stolorz, Victoria Gor, and Richard Doyle of Caltech and Clark Chapman, Randy Gladstone, William Merline, and Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-20201

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Software detects small satellites in spacecraft imagery

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This article first appeared in the March, 1999 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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