Revolutionising outer space observations
A ground-breaking project supported by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA)’s “Bravo Drop” open call and carried out by Astroscale, HEO Robotics, and the Cranfield University, has delivered new innovations in the field of space-to-space imagery. The project, funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), aimed at enhancing space-to-space sensing using multispectral and hyperspectral imaging technologies, has reached a successful completion, marking a significant stride in space observation technology and revolutionary defence capabilities.
The venture capitalised on the technical expertise and innovative capabilities of the collaborating organisations: Astroscale, a trailblazer in on-orbit services; HEO Robotics, an innovator in space-to-space and Non-Earth Imaging (NEI) techniques; and the Cranfield University, a global leader in defence, space technology and remote sensing research.
The tripartite venture was underpinned by the belief that future conflict and security risks may extend into space, hence necessitating robust and resilient systems capable of reliable detection, identification, and analysis of space objects from within space itself, rather than relying only on observations from the ground.
The project's successful completion means an advancement in space-to-space sensing technology. The application of multispectral and hyperspectral imaging has offered a significant leap in our ability to assess, interpret, and react to dynamic space environments and the growing scale in debris and activity in space. The capabilities developed provide new insights into material properties of space objects, enabling sophisticated categorisation and monitoring.
The project has resulted in the release of an innovative open-source capability called HySim. HySim (Hyperspectral Space-to-Space Imaging Simulator) is an imaging simulation tool designed for space-based proximity operations that involve hyperspectral and multispectral sensors. The program generates physics-based renders of the space environment and resulting hyperspectral data given mission parameters as inputs.
David Balson, Managing Director of HEO Robotics UK, said, "We're excited about the success of this joint endeavour. The breakthroughs we've achieved in space-to-space sensing promise to bring about a paradigm shift in how we protect and defend space assets and create a more sustainable future in earth’s orbit."
The project's success would not have been possible without Dstl and DASA's continued support and investment which recognises the crucial role of advancing technology in ensuring the UK's security and defence interests, both terrestrially and beyond.
Toby Harris, Global Head of Space Situational Awareness at Astroscale UK, said, “Astroscale are developing novel technology to ensure a safe and sustainable orbital environment. Bringing together expertise from HEO Robotics and Cranfield University, and through improved data and simulation, we are much better able to characterise objects in space. These advancements will be essential to support future in-orbit servicing and active debris removal missions.”
Looking forward, this successful project has paved the way for the deployment of these advanced technologies in future space missions. It will enhance our ability to monitor the rapidly increasing number of objects in space, and our preparedness to tackle the challenges that come with the final frontier.