Autonomous navigation around small space object (asteroid or space debris)

Participants: LTU Division of Space technology and OHB Sweden.

Objective (What we want and why we want)

With the recent advancement in space technology, exploration of small bodies such as near-earth asteroids and comets has attracted a global attention in the present era. Exploration of small bodies will provide potential scientific and technological returns, which includes space mining, development of planetary defense system and exploration about origin of life. However, such impactful missions are demanding with unique technological challenges. Accurate autonomous onboard navigation guidance and control are one of the key factors for successful exploration of small space bodies and proximity operations around it. However, the knowledge about the shape, size, rotation and gravitational parameters of small space objects are limited. Moreover, due their tumbling motion the lighting condition changes frequently. Hence straightforward camera-based measurement is not sufficient to determine the pose of the spacecraft relative to small space objects.

The goal of the project is to explore how on-board model-based navigation functionalities can be integrated with advanced measurement devices and image processing algorithms in a way that potentially results in robust performance. This project will also investigate a comparison of different navigation approaches including the Kalman filter-based estimation, which include UKF and particle filtering approaches as well as EKF-filtering. In addition, since the gravity field will not be well-known, the possibility to identify the gravitational features of the system would also be of interest. Moreover, we are planning to demonstrate the development from this project on a frictionless platform, that can provide a more meaningful insight. The knowledge base that will be developed in this project can also be applied for navigation around other noncooperative targets such as inoperative spacecraft, which is becoming increasingly important as a key component for space debris removal.


Dr. Avijit Banerjee
Robotics and AI
[email protected]