Analysis and Design of a Test Apparatus for Resolving Near-Field Effects Associated With Using a Coarse Sun Sensor as Part of a 6-DOF Solution



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Though the Aerospace industry is moving towards small satellites and smaller sensor technologies, sensors used for close-proximity operations are generally cost (and often size and power) prohibitive for University-class satellites. Given the need for low-cost, low-mass solutions for close-proximity relative navigation sensors, this research analyzed the expected errors due to near-field effects using a coarse sun sensor as part of a 6-degree-of-freedom (6-dof) solution. To characterize these near-field effects, a test bed (Characterization Test Apparatus or CTA) was proposed, its design presented, and the design stage uncertainty analysis of the CTA performed. A candidate coarse sun sensor (NorthStarTM) was chosen for testing, and a mathematical model of the sensor?s functionality was derived. Using a Gaussian Least Squares Differential Correction (GLSDC) algorithm, the model parameters were estimated and a comparison between simulated NorthStarTM measurements and model estimates was performed. Results indicate the CTA is capable of resolving the near-field errors. Additionally, this research found no apparent show stoppers for using coarse sun sensors for 6-dof solutions.