Low cost range and attitude determination solution for small satellite platforms

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


The ability to determine the range and attitude between two satellites can be a challenging venture. It can be made more challenging when considering the use of such a system on a small satellite. Successful implementation of a small and low power range and attitude sensor could open potential doors to multiple small satellite constellations and formation flying maneuvers. After successfully demonstrating an electromagnetic docking system on a one-dimensional air track, it was determined that continued work into two and three-dimensional systems would require a more functional range and attitude sensor than was originally used. Such a sensor would have to be small enough for use aboard a small satellite, require little power while operating and provide accurate data over the required range of operation, all while maintaining a minimal monetary cost. The SATellite Range and Attitude Imaging SystEm (SATRAISE) was developed to meet this demand. In order to meet all of the listed requirements, a system based on an embedded Linux computer platform was developed. The hardware for the system utilized consumer grade, commercially available parts, including a standard computer webcam and LEDs. The software for the system made use of existing image processing libraries in order to facilitate the detection and identification of target points in frames captured by the webcam. Following successful integration of the hardware and implementation of the required software, the SATRAISE was characterized under a variety of operating conditions in order to verify the accuracy, stability and power requirements of the system. The results showed that the SATRAISE met or exceeded all of the established design goals.




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