GPU-based Space Situational Awareness Simulation utilising parallelism for enhanced multi-sensor management

Tyler A. Hobson, I. Vaughan L. Clarkson
School of Information Technology & Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland
AMOS Conference Technical Papers, 2012


   title={GPU-based Space Situational Awareness Simulation utilising parallelism for enhanced multi-sensor management},

   author={Clarkson, I.V.L.},



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As a result of continual space activity since the 1950s, there are now a large number of man-made Resident Space Objects (RSOs) orbiting the Earth. Because of the large number of items and their relative speeds, the possibility of destructive collisions involving important space assets is now of significant concern to users and operators of space-borne technologies. Consequently, a growing number of agencies are researching methods for improving techniques to maintain Space Situational Awareness (SSA). Computer simulation is a method commonly used to validate competing methodologies prior to full scale adoption. The use of supercomputing and/or reduced scale testing is often necessary to effectively simulate the intricacies of the SSA management problem. Recently the authors described a simulation tool aimed at reducing the computational burden by selecting the minimum level of fidelity necessary for contrasting methodologies and by utilising multi-core CPU parallelism for increased computational efficiency. The resulting simulation runs on a single PC while maintaining the ability to effectively evaluate competing methodologies. Nonetheless, the ability to control the scale and expand upon the computational demands of the sensor management system is limited by the chosen architecture. In this paper, we examine the advantages of increasing the parallelism of the simulation by means of General Purpose computing on Graphics Processing Units (GPGPU). As many sub-processes pertaining to SSA management are independent, we demonstrate how parallelisation via GPGPU has the potential to significantly enhance not only research into techniques for maintaining SSA, but also to enhance the level of sophistication of existing space surveillance sensors and sensor management systems. Even so, the use of GPGPU imposes certain limitations and adds to the implementation complexity, both of which require consideration to achieve an effective system. We discuss these challenges and how they can be overcome. We further describe an application of the parallelised system where visibility prediction is used to enhance sensor management. This facilitates significant improvement in maximum catalogue error when RSOs become temporarily unobservable. The objective is to demonstrate the enhanced scalability and increased computational capability of the system.
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