U.S. Air Force’s Gorgon Stare wide-area persistent surveillance system taps mercury federal systems onboard, real-time processing technology

CHELMSFORD, Mass., 13 Jan. 2012. The Mercury Federal Systems subsidiary of Mercury Computer Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:MRCY), a provider of commercially developed, application-ready intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) subsystems, provided its onboard real-time image processing and storage subsystems to the Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) for the U.S. Air Force’s Gorgon Stare (GS) persistent surveillance system, currently deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Air Force’s Gorgon Stare wide-area persistent surveillance system, developed by the SNC-led industry team under the Air Force/Big Safari rapid acquisition program, has been flying operational missions since April 2011. Hosted on an Air Force/General Atomics long-dwell MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air vehicle (UAV), each GS orbit provides uninterrupted, 24/7 visible and IR coverage of city-sized areas, providing real-time motion video directly to theater and tactical forces engaged in operations.

The entire mission data set, recorded onboard the aircraft in machine-lossless format, is provided post-mission for live, long-term archiving and discovery, as well as additional current exploitation.

“The Air Force required a long-dwell, multi-sensor system that could support numerous, simultaneous surveillance missions, providing real-time support to ground forces and forensic information to analysts. Equally important was how quickly the system could deploy for operations,” explains David Bullock, vice president, ISR Persistent Surveillance, Sierra Nevada Corp. “Mercury’s renowned expertise in embedded, high-performance digital signal and image processing and their ability to accelerate time to deployment made them a clear choice for the Increment 1 core team."

In addition to Mercury Federal Systems, SNC’s Increment 1 partners included ITT Geospatial Systems, MIT/LL, L3, Gitchner, and AdamWorks. SNC is under contract to develop the next generation of Gorgon Stare systems. The SNC-led Increment 2 team adds BAE Systems as the next-generation visible sensor provider.

Mercury’s on-board, real-time sensor signal processing subsystem uses open standards-based 6U OpenVPX architecture and includes the following commercial computing hardware and software building blocks: OpenVPX GPU processing module, Switch module, Intel Core i7-based Server module, and Imaging Toolkit. Mercury’s ruggedized, solid-state disk drive-based Digital Storage Unit stores mission data for both immediate exploitation and longer term forensic analysis.

“Mercury’s flexible, size, weight, and power (SWaP)-optimized processing architecture provides unmatched performance through new on-board capabilities for Sierra Nevada’s system solution, enabling the most powerful data processing and exploitation to occur closer to the sensor while overcoming air-to-ground communications bottlenecks,” says Dr. Paul Monticciolo, general manager, Mercury Federal Systems. “Warfighters and analysts will be better able to extract actionable intelligence from the resulting imagery and exploitation products in near-real time through ROVER displays and dissemination through the DCGS. As a result, our forces will have persistent situational awareness of ground activities.” 


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