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Open AccessArticle

Attitude Sensor from Ellipsoid Observations: A Numerical and Experimental Validation

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Bologna, 47121 Forlì, Italy
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This paper is an extended version of our paper published in: D. Modenini, M. Zannoni “A High Accuracy Horizon Sensor for Small Satellites”. In Proceedings of the 2019 IEEE 5th International Workshop on Metrology for AeroSpace (MetroAeroSpace), Turin, Italy, 19–21 June 2019; pp. 451–456. doi:10.1109/MetroAeroSpace.2019.8869676.
Sensors 2020, 20(2), 433; https://doi.org/10.3390/s20020433
Received: 10 December 2019 / Revised: 8 January 2020 / Accepted: 8 January 2020 / Published: 13 January 2020
The preliminary design and validation of a novel, high accuracy horizon-sensor for small satellites is presented, which is based on the theory of attitude determination from ellipsoid observations. The concept consists of a multi-head infrared sensor capturing images of the Earth limb. By fitting an ellipse to the imaged limb arcs, and exploiting some analytical results available from projective geometry, a closed form solution for computing the attitude matrix is provided. The algorithm is developed in a dimensionless framework, requiring the knowledge of the shape of the imaged target, but not of its size. As a result, the solution is less sensitive to the limb shift caused by the atmospheric own radiance. To evaluate the performance of the proposed method, a numerical simulator is developed, which generates images captured in low Earth orbit, including also the presence of the atmosphere. In addition, experimental validation is provided due to a dedicated testbed, making use of a miniature infrared camera. Results show that our sensor concept returns rms errors of few hundredths of a degree or less in determining the local nadir direction. View Full-Text
Keywords: attitude determination; horizon sensor; ellipsoid attitude determination; horizon sensor; ellipsoid
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Modenini, D.; Locarini, A.; Zannoni, M. Attitude Sensor from Ellipsoid Observations: A Numerical and Experimental Validation. Sensors 2020, 20, 433.

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