The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLII-3/W1
25 Jul 2017
 | 25 Jul 2017


R. L. Kirk, E. Howington-Kraus, K. Edmundson, B. Redding, D. Galuszka, T. Hare, and K. Gwinner

Keywords: Mars, photogrammetry, topography, DTMs

Abstract. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on the Mars Express orbiter (Neukum et al. 2004) is a multi-line pushbroom scanner that can obtain stereo and color coverage of targets in a single overpass, with pixel scales as small as 10 m at periapsis. Since commencing operations in 2004 it has imaged ~ 77 % of Mars at 20 m/pixel or better. The instrument team uses the Video Image Communication And Retrieval (VICAR) software to produce and archive a range of data products from uncalibrated and radiometrically calibrated images to controlled digital topographic models (DTMs) and orthoimages and regional mosaics of DTM and orthophoto data (Gwinner et al. 2009; 2010b; 2016). Alternatives to this highly effective standard processing pipeline are nevertheless of interest to researchers who do not have access to the full VICAR suite and may wish to make topographic products or perform other (e. g., spectrophotometric) analyses prior to the release of the highest level products. We have therefore developed software to ingest HRSC images and model their geometry in the USGS Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers (ISIS3), which can be used for data preparation, geodetic control, and analysis, and the commercial photogrammetric software SOCET SET (® BAE Systems; Miller and Walker 1993; 1995) which can be used for independent production of DTMs and orthoimages.

The initial implementation of this capability utilized the then-current ISIS2 system and the generic pushbroom sensor model of SOCET SET, and was described in the DTM comparison of independent photogrammetric processing by different elements of the HRSC team (Heipke et al. 2007). A major drawback of this prototype was that neither software system then allowed for pushbroom images in which the exposure time changes from line to line. Except at periapsis, HRSC makes such timing changes every few hundred lines to accommodate changes of altitude and velocity in its elliptical orbit. As a result, it was necessary to split observations into blocks of constant exposure time, greatly increasing the effort needed to control the images and collect DTMs.

Here, we describe a substantially improved HRSC processing capability that incorporates sensor models with varying line timing in the current ISIS3 system (Sides 2017) and SOCET SET. This enormously reduces the work effort for processing most images and eliminates the artifacts that arose from segmenting them. In addition, the software takes advantage of the continuously evolving capabilities of ISIS3 and the improved image matching module NGATE (Next Generation Automatic Terrain Extraction, incorporating area and feature based algorithms, multi-image and multi-direction matching) of SOCET SET, thus greatly reducing the need for manual editing of DTM errors. We have also developed a procedure for geodetically controlling the images to Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data by registering a preliminary stereo topographic model to MOLA by using the point cloud alignment (pc_align) function of the NASA Ames Stereo Pipeline (ASP; Moratto et al. 2010). This effectively converts inter-image tiepoints into ground control points in the MOLA coordinate system. The result is improved absolute accuracy and a significant reduction in work effort relative to manual measurement of ground control. The ISIS and ASP software used are freely available; SOCET SET, is a commercial product. By the end of 2017 we expect to have ported our SOCET SET HRSC sensor model to the Community Sensor Model (CSM; Community Sensor Model Working Group 2010; Hare and Kirk 2017) standard utilized by the successor photogrammetric system SOCET GXP that is currently offered by BAE. In early 2018, we are also working with BAE to release the CSM source code under a BSD or MIT open source license.

We illustrate current HRSC processing capabilities with three examples, of which the first two come from the DTM comparison of 2007. Candor Chasma (h1235_0001) was a near-periapse observation with constant exposure time that could be processed relatively easily at that time. We show qualitative and quantitative improvements in DTM resolution and precision as well as greatly reduced need for manual editing, and illustrate some of the photometric applications possible in ISIS. At the Nanedi Valles site we are now able to process all 3 long-arc orbits (h0894_0000, h0905_0000 and h0927_0000) without segmenting the images. Finally, processing image set h4235_0001, which covers the landing site of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover and its rugged science target of Aeolus Mons in Gale crater, provides a rare opportunity to evaluate DTM resolution and precision because extensive High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) DTMs are available (Golombek et al. 2012). The HiRISE products have ~ 50x smaller pixel scale so that discrepancies can mostly be attributed to HRSC. We use the HiRISE DTMs to compare the resolution and precision of our HRSC DTMs with the (evolving) standard products.

We find that the vertical precision of HRSC DTMs is comparable to the pixel scale but the horizontal resolution may be 15–30 image pixels, depending on processing. This is significantly coarser than the lower limit of 3–5 pixels based on the minimum size for image patches to be matched. Stereo DTMs registered to MOLA altimetry by surface fitting typically deviate by 10thinsp;m or less in mean elevation. Estimates of the RMS deviation are strongly influenced by the sparse sampling of the altimetry, but range from