Toward faster and more accurate star sensors using recursive centroiding and star identification



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Texas A&M University


The objective of this research is to study different novel developed techniques for spacecraft attitude determination methods using star tracker sensors. This dissertation addresses various issues on developing improved star tracker software, presents new approaches for better performance of star trackers, and considers applications to realize high precision attitude estimates.

Star-sensors are often included in a spacecraft attitude-system instrument suite, where high accuracy pointing capability is required. Novel methods for image processing, camera parameters ground calibration, autonomous star pattern recognition, and recursive star identification are researched and implemented to achieve high accuracy and a high frame rate star tracker that can be used for many space missions. This dissertation presents the methods and algorithms implemented for the one Field of View 'FOV' StarNavI sensor that was tested aboard the STS-107 mission in spring 2003 and the two fields of view StarNavII sensor for the EO-3 spacecraft scheduled for launch in 2007. The results of this research enable advances in spacecraft attitude determination based upon real time star sensing and pattern recognition. Building upon recent developments in image processing, pattern recognition algorithms, focal plane detectors, electro-optics, and microprocessors, the star tracker concept utilized in this research has the following key objectives for spacecraft of the future: lower cost, lower mass and smaller volume, increased robustness to environment-induced aging and instrument response variations, increased adaptability and autonomy via recursive self-calibration and health-monitoring on-orbit. Many of these attributes are consequences of improved algorithms that are derived in this dissertation.