Advanced Persistent-Surveillance Sky Camera

Navy SBIR 21.2 - Topic N212-138
SSP - Strategic Systems Programs
Opens: May 19, 2021 - Closes: June 17, 2021 (12:00pm edt)

N212-138 TITLE: Advanced Persistent-Surveillance Sky Camera

RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): General Warfighting Requirements (GWR)

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics;Materials / Processes;Sensors

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate an Advanced Persistent-Surveillance Sky Camera by enhancing the Wide Area Staring Photometer (WASP), currently in use by United States Naval Observatory (USNO), to be accurate within milli-arcseconds and include simultaneous, multi-filter photometry that has associated star brightness variability estimates valid for at least one year.

DESCRIPTION: Wide-field, non-tracking Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera arrays that observe many square degrees of the sky are now in use by USNO and other Government agencies. These camera systems are critical for the long-term photometric monitoring of bright stars. They can also be used to observe geostationary satellites and transient celestial events and objects. Because these systems utilize COTS cameras, which are not designed for astronomical use, they are limited in terms of their accuracies and photometric capabilities. USNO desires to develop the next generation of camera systems ("WASP 2.0") that are more astrometrically accurate, more compact, sensitive to a wider range of stellar magnitudes, and include simultaneous, multi-filter photometry. This will benefit Navy by providing relatively inexpensive yet highly capable systems for the long-term monitoring of stars. Since these systems observe large swaths of the sky, they will allow USNO to obtain better measurements of the long-term brightness variability of stars. USNO anticipates that they will be readily deployable around the world, on land sites, as well as ocean surface vessels. This is critical to support observations of stars in both northern and southern hemispheres. Moreover, these systems support other defense applications (e.g., space situational awareness) as well as general astronomical purposes; thus, their commercialization potential is expected to be high. All work executed under this topic will be unclassified.

PHASE I: Develop and define a concept design for an Advanced Persistent-Surveillance Sky Camera by enhancing the current WASP to be more astrometrically accurate (at least a degree of magnitude better) with simultaneous, multi-filter photometry. The new WASP 2.0 system will be designed to have the capability to measure astrometric parameters at the milli-arcsecond level and have derivative estimates of brightness variability that are viable for at least one year. Work with the Navy in understanding size, function, and interface requirements for WASP 2.0. Interface requirements will be furnished after Phase I has been awarded. Construct hardware and software that ensure data and network connection integrity as well as USNO data application. Identify risks to the proposed concept, and develop Phase II plans that include ways to mitigate those risks. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

PHASE II: Produce and deliver a prototype WASP 2.0 camera system. Work with the Navy to fully understand the data and interface requirements. Work with the Navy to understand hardware and integration standards for WASP 2.0 being deployed and used in a manner useful for USNO data constructions as well as NSWCDD data utility. Provide testing scenarios that ensure operational use of data collection efficiencies compared to current practice. Establish a feedback loop with the Navy for implementing changes during prototype testing. All the work under this Phase II effort will be unclassified.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Deliver a WASP 2.0 camera system to be integrated for operational use by USNO in a manner that supplies data collections needed for SP23 developed capabilities. Provide design and test cases that demonstrate integration of the WASP 2.0 camera in USNO-designed operational environments. Support on-site testing and work with the Navy in the operational set up of the camera system including troubleshooting plus resolving implementation and execution issues at various Navy, DoD, and civilian telescope observatories that can provide information for star tracker navigation. Coordinate with Navy guidance technical teams to leverage stellar data streams that will enhance the design trade space for other guidance and navigation capabilities for these other DoD programs.

In addition to including simultaneous, multi-filter photometry, the next generation of camera systems ("WASP 2.0") are expected to be more astrometrically accurate, more compact, and more sensitive to a range of stellar magnitudes as compared with current COTS cameras. These systems observe large swaths of the sky, and it is anticipated that they will be readily deployable around the world, on land sites, as well as ocean surface vessels. The increased capability and portability make these cameras an attractive option to users outside of the military.


  1. Dao, Phan et al. "Machine Classification and Sub-Classification Pipeline For GEO Light Curves." Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference (AMOS) 2019.
  2. Dao, Phan and Monet, Dave. "GEO Optical Data Association with Concurrent Metric and Photometric Information." Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference (AMOS) 2017.
  3. Ackermann, Mark et al. "COTS Options for Low-Cost SSA." Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference (AMOS) 2015.
  4. Law, Nicholas M. et al. 2015, "Evryscopescience: exploring the potential of all-sky gigapixel-scale telescopes." arXivLabs. arXiv preprintarXiv: 1501.03162.
  5. Abraham, Roberto G. and van Dokkum, Pieter G. "Ultra-low surface brightness imaging with the dragonfly telephoto array." Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 2014, 126(935):55.

KEYWORDS: Sky Camera; Bright Star Variability; Data Collection; Photometric Monitoring; Multi-filter Photometry; Astrometry; Astrometric; Wide Area Staring Photometer; WASP




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