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Sensors 2009, 9(6), 4503-4524; doi:10.3390/s90604503

Multi-Aperture CMOS Sun Sensor for Microsatellite Attitude Determination

*  and
Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Naples Federico II, 80 Piazzale Tecchio, 80125 Naples, Italy
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 31 March 2009 / Revised: 19 May 2009 / Accepted: 26 May 2009 / Published: 9 June 2009
(This article belongs to the Special Issue State-of-the-Art Sensors Technology in Italy)
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This paper describes the high precision digital sun sensor under development at the University of Naples. The sensor determines the sun line orientation in the sensor frame from the measurement of the sun position on the focal plane. It exploits CMOS technology and an original optical head design with multiple apertures. This allows simultaneous multiple acquisitions of the sun as spots on the focal plane. The sensor can be operated either with a fixed or a variable number of sun spots, depending on the required field of view and sun-line measurement precision. Multiple acquisitions are averaged by using techniques which minimize the computational load to extract the sun line orientation with high precision. Accuracy and computational efficiency are also improved thanks to an original design of the calibration function relying on neural networks. Extensive test campaigns are carried out using a laboratory test facility reproducing sun spectrum, apparent size and distance, and variable illumination directions. Test results validate the sensor concept, confirming the precision improvement achievable with multiple apertures, and sensor operation with a variable number of sun spots. Specifically, the sensor provides accuracy and precision in the order of 1 arcmin and 1 arcsec, respectively.
Keywords: sun sensor; satellite attitude determination; calibration; neural networks sun sensor; satellite attitude determination; calibration; neural networks
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Rufino, G.; Grassi, M. Multi-Aperture CMOS Sun Sensor for Microsatellite Attitude Determination. Sensors 2009, 9, 4503-4524.

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