We have received an award from the NASA Michigan Space Grant Consortium to develop a star imaging approach for CubeSats using an array of miniature cameras.
Attitude determination for small spacecraft in the 1-5 kilogram range is one of the major technological challenges limiting their utility for a variety of missions. In prior work, we have developed a visual approach for attitude propagation. By tracking the motion of stars in a camera’s field of view, the rotation of the spacecraft can be found in three degrees of freedom. We refer to the approach as a stellar gyroscope. The proposed work builds on the prior success and findings to pursue a promising new topology. Essentially, we will miniaturize the sensor nodes and lenses to design a camera in the size range of modern smartphone cameras capable of star imaging while utilizing the stellar gyroscope algorithm’s noise tolerance in post-processing. This will allow small spacecraft to incorporate up to one camera on each side if needed, with one centralized image processing subsystem.