Low-cost attitude determination system and imager with embedded compression

J. W. Percival, B. Babler, R. Bonomo, S. Gabelt, W. Harris, K. Jaehnig, D. Michalski, K. Nordsieck

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Space Astronomy Laboratory has built and flown a very-low-cost (approximately $50 K) star tracker and digital imaging system with embedded compression. The star tracker is suitable for all rocket and spacecraft applications, and provides pitch, yaw, and roll updates at rates up to 10 Hz. The digital imaging subsystem uses a novel NASA-funded scheme of `progressive image transmission' in which the image is sent out over a very-low-bandwidth channel, such as a telemetry downlink, in such a way that it can be reconstructed `on the fly' and updated as more data arrive. Large (768×474) useful images can be obtained over a 4-kbit/s downlink in as little as 10 seconds. This device can act as an aspect camera, a deployment monitor, or a science imager in situations where low bandwidth is desired or high bandwidth is not available. We are now upgrading the prototype device in two ways. We are adding a full `lost in space' gyroless attitude determination capability. We are also upgrading the prototype optics, electronics, and associated hardware for lighter weight, smaller size, lower power, and faster image processing. We expect the device to cost between 1% and 10% that of other modern, solid-state star trackers (which don't provide a lowbandwidth imaging capability). This will satisfy a critical need for low-cost attitude determination, fine pointing, and imaging in small satellites, sounding rockets, balloons, and other `cheaper faster better' applications, and will be suitable for space science missions of any programmatic scope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-400
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2000
EventUV, Optical, and IR Space Telescopes and Instruments - Munich, Ger
Duration: Mar 29 2000Mar 31 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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