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Proceedings Paper

Video-Based Satellite Attitude Determination
Author(s): Robert L. Russell; Andrew J. D' Arcy
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Paper Abstract

The mission lifetime of future spacecraft will be greatly extended by the routine performance of repair and resupply operations. There will be significant cost and safety advantages if these operations can be performed with minimum human involvement. A key step in any such operation will be rendezvous and docking. Each docking operation requires knowledge of the three-dimensional position and orientation (attitude) of the associated spacecraft. In this paper, an approach for solving the attitude determination problem for satellites is presented. This technique uses standard CCD video and requires the identification of the camera plane coordinates of at least three known points on the object. To facilitate detection of these points, retro-reflectors are mounted in a known configuration on the satellite's surface and are illuminated by a spotlight adjacent to the camera. A ring of black nonreflective material is placed around the border of each reflector to aid the image processing. The reflectors are separated from the background using features such as brightness, shape, and color. Besides distinguishing the reflectors from the background it is also necessary to distinguish them from each other. To do this we arranged the identical disk reflectors in a specific pattern, which allows the correspondence to be determined from the image locations alone. The use of identical disks has enabled development of robust algorithms that can reliably identify reflectors in the presence of adverse lighting conditions, such as secondary reflections off thermal blankets, or the earth or sun in the background.

Paper Details

Date Published: 20 February 1987
PDF: 5 pages
Proc. SPIE 0729, Space Station Automation II, (20 February 1987); doi: 10.1117/12.964878
Show Author Affiliations
Robert L. Russell, Moorestown Corporate Center (United States)
Andrew J. D' Arcy, Moorestown Corporate Center (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 0729:
Space Station Automation II
Wun C. Chiou, Editor(s)

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