Autonomous vision-based space objects detection and tracking in orbit


Project Leader: Professor Xiaofeng Wu, The University of Sydney

Participants: The University of Sydney, Thales Australia Ltd, High-Earth Robotics Pty Ltd

It has become a concern in recent years that the low Earth orbits are turning into
a congested and contaminated environment with the proliferation of orbital
debris. So far, approximately 34,000 objects larger than 10 cm in diameter lie in
this region, about 900,000 pieces of debris 1-10 cm, and the number of objects
smaller than 1 cm is estimated to be up to 128 million. With the development and
commercialisation of small satellites, the small satellite market is expected to
reach $15,686.3 million by 2026. Any impact or collision of space debris with the
operational satellites can jeopardise or even end their life, yield significant loss to
the space economy, and trigger the so-called Kessler Syndrome which refers to
the possibility that collisions will create more debris collisions.

The University of Sydney are developing space-based optical sensors, including
telescopes, hyperspectral imager and wide field of view star tracker under the
ARC training Centre for CubeSats, UAVs and the Applications (CUAVA). These
sensors are initially developed for other purposes like Earth observation,
astronomy and attitude and orbit determination. This project however will look at
the feasibility of applying these sensors for space objects detection and tracking
in orbit.