Published: Feb. 12, 2024

Tam Nguyen Tam Nguyen
Technical Staff, MIT Lincoln Laboratory
Wednesday, Feb. 21 | 9:30 a.m. | AERO 111

Abstract: Detection of faint space objects with limited a priori state knowledge can enable advanced capabilities across multiple domains, including space situational awareness, planetary defense, and planetary science. To detect objects fainter than the single-frame sensitivity limit, track-before-detect methods can improve the signal-to-noise ratio of the object of interest by incoherently adding the object's signal across multiple frames.

However, traditional track-before-detect techniques can become computationally intensive over large search volumes. In this work, we present a computational approach to significantly speed up the search process by applying divide-and-conquer methodologies and dynamic programming techniques. In this approach, image frames are processed in stages, in which pairs of frames are shifted and added to generate short-track segments, which are combined in later stages to form longer tracks. The algorithm speedup comes from the fact that a single short track segment can be reused multiple times for different longer tracks without the need for recomputing.

Benchmark testing with simulated data shows that this method results in a significant reduction in runtime in comparison to traditional track-before-detect approach.

As a proof of concept, we demonstrated the applicability of the technique in performing a blind search for faint asteroids in image data collected from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), leading to an improvement of up to 2 visual magnitudes in sensitivity with moderate computational resources. The method presented in this work has wide applicability, including custody maintenance of small and/or distant spacecraft and discovery of small planetary bodies in the inner and outer solar system.

Bio: Dr. Nguyen is a Technical Staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in the Space Systems & Technology division. She has led multiple research programs on advanced detection methodology and space-based remote sensing instrumentation. She is interested in developing new sensing capabilities to detect and characterize space objects for space situational awareness, planetary defense, and planetary science & exploration.

Prior to her current role, she was part of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) team at MIT, where she contributed to the development of the spacecraft fine-pointing system and instrument photometric precision characterization before and after launch. Her previous research experience includes developing attitude-sensing systems for CubeSats, leading to multiple patents in sensing technology.

She received her B.S. in Aeronautics/Astronautics and Physics in 2013 and Ph.D. in Space Systems in 2018 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was the recipient of a NASA Silver Achievement Medal for her contribution to the TESS mission and was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellow.


Upcoming Seminars Calendar

All seminars are open to the public.