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Project: Autonomous Nanosatellite Swarming (ANS) using Radio-Frequency and Optical Navigation

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Autonomous Nanosatellite Swarming (ANS) using Radio-Frequency and Optical Navigation is a new mission concept developed at SLAB to autonomously characterize an asteroid. In contrast to completed asteroid missions that have required extensive human oversight and significant use of ground-based resources, ANS comprises multiple small satellites that cooperate to autonomously characterize an asteroid. The spacecraft are equipped with low size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) avionics including star trackers, chip scale atomic clocks, short-range cameras, and intersatellite radio-frequency links. Novel guidance, navigation, and control algorithms are utilized to achieve mission objectives in a safe and fuel-efficient manner.

Intersatellite pseudorange and Doppler measurements are combined with images of the asteroid for simultaneous navigation, time synchronization, and asteroid characterization including estimation of the asteroid gravity field, 3D shape, and rotational motion. No a priori shape model is required. The ANS estimation pipeline consists of three novel modules: 1) multi-agent optical landmark tracking and 3D point reconstruction using stereovision, 2) state estimation through a computationally efficient and robust UKF, and 3) reconstruction of a global spherical harmonic shape model by leveraging a priori knowledge of the shape properties of small celestial bodies.

Through autonomy and small satellite technology, ANS reduces both mission cost and the burden on ground-based resources, which could enable a greater number of future asteroid missions.

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Related Publications

Stacey, N., Dennison, K., D'Amico, S.;
Autonomous Asteroid Characterization through Nanosatellite Swarming ;
IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, Montana, March 5-12 (2022).

Stacey, N., D'Amico, S.;
Analytical Process Noise Covariance Modeling for Absolute and Relative Orbits;
Acta Astronautica, Volume 194, 2022, Pages 34-47, ISSN 0094-5765, (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2022.01.020.

Stacey, N., D'Amico, S.;
Adaptive and Dynamically Constrained Process Noise Estimation for Orbit Determination;
IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems (2021). DOI: 10.1109/TAES.2021.3074205

Dennison K., D'Amico S.;
Comparing Optical Tracking Techniques in Distributed Asteroid Orbiter Missions Using Ray-Tracing;
AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, Virtual Event, February 1-4 (2021).

Lippe C., D'Amico S.;
Spacecraft Swarm Dynamics and Control About Asteroids;
Advances in Space Research (2020), DOI: 10.1016/J.ASR.2020.06.037.

Lippe C., D'Amico S.;
Adaptive Filter for Osculating-to-Mean Relative Orbital Elements (ROE) Conversion;
2020 AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, South Lake Tahoe, California, August 9 - 13 (2020).

Guffanti T., D'Amico S.;
Linear Models for Spacecraft Relative Motion Perturbed by Solar Radiation Pressure;
Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, Vol. 42, No. 9, pp. 1962-1981 (2019). DOI: 10.2514/1.G002822.

Stacey N., D'Amico S.;
Autonomous Swarming for Simultaneous Navigation and Asteroid Characterization;
2018 AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, Snowbird, UT, August 19-23 (2018).