Multi-site photometry for spacecraft attitude determination

July 24, 2017

 

The attitude of a spacecraft is how the spacecraft is oriented in space. The knowledge of a spacecraft's attitude is very useful for applications such as the removal of space debris, and models for the effects of drag and solar radiation pressure on the spacecraft. It is possible to use an optical telescope for attitude determination. This involves watching an object over a period of time and measuring how the brightness of an object changes over time. As an object rotates, the reflected light that can be seen by a viewer changes. The time history of an object's brightness or apparent magnitude is called a lightcurve. Using lightcurves, it is then possible to determine the attitude of a space object. 

 

Our research involves using lightcurves taken simultaneously from multiple observation sites to better determine the attitude of a spacecraft. When dealing with satellites or space debris, the chance to view these objects is typically limited. The use of multiple observation sites can allow for more data to be collected in less time. Which means that a given telescope doesn't have to continually track one object for a long period of time, but can be used to view multiple objects. 

 

 

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