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Commercial-off-the-shelf event-based cameras for space surveillance applications

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Abstract

Event-based cameras (EBCs) are of interest for potential application to space domain awareness (SDA). EBC attributes, including asynchronous response and low latency provide data reduction, break the trade-off between latency and power, and enable consideration of additional algorithms and processing architectures due to individual timestamps for each event. Potential data reduction by a factor of 10 or greater is particularly attractive for SDA from satellite platforms with constraints on system power, processing, and communication bandwidth. Here we report our initial evaluation of Prophesee third-generation commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) EBCs, including development of, and comparison with, a limiting magnitude model. The analytic model is a function of sky background radiance; EBC parameters including contrast threshold, dark current, pixel pitch, and spectral quantum efficiency; and the optic aperture diameter and focal length. Using an 85 mm f/1.4 lens, the measured detection limits for the half-size video graphics array (HVGA) and video graphics array (VGA)-format EBCs are 6.9 and 9.8 visual magnitudes (${m_V}$), respectively, at a sky background level of about ${20.3}\;{m_V}$ per square arcsecond. The empirical sensitivity limit for the VGA differs by ${0.1}\;{m_V}$ from our analytic prediction of 9.7 (less than 10% difference in flux). The limiting magnitude model assumes slow motion of point objects across the EBC focal plane array. Additional experiments exploring temporal behavior show that no stars are detected while scanning across the night sky faster than 0.5 deg per second using the VGA-EBC mounted to a 200 mm f/2.0 lens. The limited sensitivity of the evaluated COTS EBCs prevents their use as a replacement for typical CCD/CMOS framing sensors, but EBCs show clear promise for small-aperture, large-field persistent SDA in terms of their efficient capture of temporal information.

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Data Availability

Data underlying the results presented in this paper are available in Refs. [19, 21]. Event-based camera observational data underlying the results presented in this paper are not publicly available at this time but may be obtained from the authors upon reasonable request.

19. J. M. Carrasco, “5.3.7 Photometric relationships with other photometric systems,” Gaia Data Release 2 Documentation release Gaia Data Release 2 Documentation release 1.2, European Space Agency, 2021, https://gea.esac.esa.int/archive/documentation/GDR2/Data_processing/chap_cu5pho/sec_cu5pho_calibr/ssec_cu5pho_PhotTransf.html#Ch5.T8.

21. ESA, “Gaia DR2 Space Catalog,” European Space Agency, 2021, https://www.cosmos.esa.int/gaia.

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