Determination of Satellite Characteristics through Visible Light Intensity Analysis
AIR FORCE ACADEMY COLORADO SPRINGS CO DEPT OF ASTRONAUTICS
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While many governments attempt to obtain information about satellites passing overhead using expensive equipment such as radar or large telescopes, many characteristics of a satellite, its orbit, and possible mission type can be inferred through analysis of its light intensity variations as it passes overhead. Using off-the-shelf equipment, a satellite can be tracked and recorded with a camera during visible sightings. Images are normalized based on range, the amount of atmosphere the light travels through, and the percentage of satellite illumination. A plot of the intensity versus time is created from these images. Based on patterns displayed by the light intensity graph, a satellite s cross-sectional ratio, its orientation to the earth, and its movement in the orbit can be determined. This inexpensive and easily duplicated process is done with only light intensity analysis. The satellite itself need not actually be resolved in the images.
- Unmanned Spacecraft