Cameron, CB, Rodriguez, RN, Padgett, N, Waluschka, E, Kizhner, S (2005). Optical ray tracing using parallel processors. IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INSTRUMENTATION AND MEASUREMENT, 54(1), 87-97.
One of the instruments on the sun-synchronous Terra (EOS AM) and Aqua (EOS PM) spacecraft, the Moderate Resolution Spectroradiometer (MODIS), obtains calibration data once during every orbit. Observations of the sun permit corrections to observations of the earth during the ensuing orbit Although the instrument was designed to receive uniform sunlight over the entire surface of its detector, the sunlight was in fact not uniform. While this did not adversely affect the calibration, it nonetheless implied a lack of understanding of how the optical system really functioned. To learn what was wrong, NASA used an optical ray-tracing program on a DEC Alpha computer. The results correlated well with the observations made by the instrument itself, but it took nearly two weeks to complete the computer simulation, a discouragingly long time. This paper describes the algorithm and its implementation in a system with multiple digital signal processor (DSP) chips operating in parallel. Timing data show a highly linear relationship between the number of DSPs present and the speed of the computation. Administrative overhead is negligible compared to the time taken to compute ray trajectories. This implies that many more than just four DSPs could be harnessed before administrative overhead would begin to be significant.