Deterministic relative attitude determination of formation flying spacecraft
Andrle, Michael S.
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This thesis considers a group of formation flying spacecraft with onboard laser communication devices. Typically, an individual satellite requiring knowledge of inertial attitude requires its own instrumentation usually comprising of gyroscopes and star trackers. Because in order for laser communication devices to function they must be oriented in the proper direction, additional data is available that this work seeks to exploit. Line of sight vectors between known locations on each spacecraft can be extracted from the laser devices. With a configuration of three space vehicles, enough measurement data is available from these devices alone to deterministically calculate the relative attitude between the spacecraft in the formation. This work focuses its efforts towards characterizing the accuracy of such a calculation using standard deterministic attitude determination methods. These results are corroborated with practical results obtained through a state estimation algorithm to provide an example application.