Adaptive Optics for Satellite Imaging

RSAA have developed an Adaptive Optics (AO) system for the Korean Astronomy and Space Institute (KASI) in South Korea. Partnering with Electro-Optic Systems (EOS), who are providing KASI with a 1 m telescope, RSAA designed, built, and tested a custom AO system to achieve near diffraction-limited imaging of satellites in low Earth orbit.

This high-performance AO system is designed to overcome atmospheric turbulence which otherwise distorts images captured by a ground-based telescope. This is even more challenging for objects in low Earth orbit, as they move across the sky much faster than celestial objects. We combine state-of-the-art detector and deformable mirror technologies to resolve objects down to 90 cm in size at 1000 km range.

The images of satellites can be analysed to determine satellite orientation and shape, which can be fed into models used to predict satellite position more accurately. This is particularly important for debris objects which may have broken apart, leaving the shape unknown. This AO system will be able to provide information which will assist in determining a precise orbit, which is critical for avoiding collisions between debris and active satellites.

Relevant publications

F. Bennet, I. Price, F. Rigaut, M. Copeland "Satellite imaging with adaptive optics on a 1 m telescope” in proceedings of AMOS 2016