The A8 Research Center

The A8 Research Center

First published Spring 2011, Crosslink® magazine.


The Aerospace Corporation’s A8 Research Center (ARC) in El Segundo primarily supports the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) program, including its legacy Defense Support Program (DSP) component, and the Space and Missile Systems Center Developmental Planning organization (SMC/XR). The facility has conducted phenomenological research, examined operational issues, and assisted DOD and civilian dual-use collaborations and has also supported the intelligence community and other civil space agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The facility receives data directly through its own antennas and from the SBIRS Mission Control Station through networked contractor lines. Data is continuously streamed to the facility, which retains archival information dating back to 2004.

Aerospace is using the ARC to develop and refine a DSP attitude filter software tool—a ground-based recursive filter that updates and propagates attitude information using a high-fidelity dynamics model and primary sensor measurements. As an enhancement to existing operational software, the tool improves the DSP line-of-sight performance for satellites with degraded star sensors and makes the software more robust. Aerospace has been working with the contractor to integrate the software and evaluate its performance using recorded and live DSP data.

The Algorithm Development Laboratory (ADL) was established within the ARC by SMC/XR in May 2009. One goal of the ADL is to develop and evaluate mission-data processing (MDP) algorithms and process test data for overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensor systems. As part of that effort, the laboratory recently developed near-real-time subspace projection algorithms for detecting and tracking infrared events (targets). Compared with traditional techniques, these algorithms demonstrated superior performance in resolving closely spaced objects and suppressing clutter. These algorithms will be fine-tuned for a commercially hosted infrared payload (CHIRP) with a wide-field-of-view staring sensor scheduled to launch in late 2011 for the Air Force.

Sensor concepts being developed today have more stringent signal processing requirements than ever before, and Aerospace’s algorithm analysts are using the ADL to reduce risk and to continue innovative algorithm development for next-generation OPIR MDP capabilities.

—Kent Bradford

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