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Proceedings Paper

Conceptual design and algorithm evaluation for a very-accurate-imaging star tracker for deep-space optical communications
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Paper Abstract

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning high data rate optical communications for future deep space missions. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) is responding by developing concepts for implementing optical communications terminals that are more compact and lightweight than heretofore. An essential requirement for these long-range optical links is a high-precision pointing and tracking system. Focal plane array (FPA)-based star trackers that enable open-loop pointing and tracking are necessary. Spacecraft attitude instabilities, emphemeris errors, tracking sensor noise, clock errors, and mechanical misalignments are among the error sources that must be minimized and compensated for. To achieve this JHU/APL has developed an imaging star tracker concept using redundant multi-aperture FPA's symmetrically disposed about the laser downlink. Centroid estimation and pattern matching techniques account for aberration and motion errors. Robustness, sensitivity to detection thresholds, field-of-view sizing, number of stars per frame, missed detections, false alarms, and position biases, as well as stellar catalog size and star selection, will be described. Finally the conceptual design of a frame-to-frame integration method and sensor fusion algorithm (such as a Kalman filter) will be considered. The goal is to achieve a system pointing and tracking error significantly less than 1 μrad.

Paper Details

Date Published: 9 December 2002
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 4821, Free-Space Laser Communication and Laser Imaging II, (9 December 2002); doi: 10.1117/12.451809
Show Author Affiliations
Donald E. Maurer, Johns Hopkins Univ. (United States)
Bradley G. Boone, Johns Hopkins Univ. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4821:
Free-Space Laser Communication and Laser Imaging II
Jennifer C. Ricklin; David G. Voelz, Editor(s)

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