The U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile System Center’s Development Planning Directorate has awarded Northrop Grumman a contract worth $5.75 million to develop ground processing signal capability to support a commercial satellite’s infrared (IR) payload.
The IR sensor payload is aboard an SES satellite that was placed in geosynchronous orbit over the United States in September; the satellite is part of the Modular Architecture for Signal-processing, Tracking and Exploitation Research (MASTER) program.
“MASTER provides an important sensor-agnostic ground processing capability for our customer,” said Ron Alford, Northrop Grumman’s director, sensor exploitation systems and Colorado campuses.
MASTER has been successful in integrating and using algorithms provided by outside third parties as well as processing data from multiple operational overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensors and new experimental simulated data. The MASTER architecture has also enabled innovative parallel data processing with multiple plug-and-play algorithms, along with significant advances in star and static-source line-of-site correction methods.
“The architecture utilizes an enterprise approach with an open architecture and plug-and-play components,” Alford said. Measurable cost savings can be enjoyed in future data processing systems by using the MASTER architecture to provide common processing capabilities across sensor types and system constellations without the need for customized processing chains, he said.
That approach not only reduces costs, but facilitates new missions, new sensor/data providers and the participation of third parties in specialized processing algorithms for new and changing missions, he said.
Northrop said the architecture developed could be used by multiple types of sensors without the redundant cost of redeveloping the ground mission processing software.
The architecture, however, is only prototyped against overhead persistent IR sensors. It has proved successful in integrating and using algorithms provided by third parties and in processing data from multiple OPIR sensors.