Vision-based tracking of non-cooperative space bodies to support active attitude control detection Conference Paper uri icon


  • © 2018, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA. All rights reserved. Orbital debris has been increasing progressively over the years. This collection of defunct man-made objects includes space junk resulting from on-orbit object collisions and retired satellites. After a satellite has accomplished its main mission, it can potentially remain in orbit for extended periods of time, and even still carry sufficient fuel to perform limited re-orientation maneuvers. A satellite operator may then use an old satellite for a secondary purpose, such as covert surveillance, taking advantage of the cluttered space environment and using minimal control effort to avoid being detected. Classifying an observed space object as active or passive has two main tasks: a strategy to estimate its relative motion, and an approach to discern between active control and free tumbling behavior based on the estimated relative motion. Previously, the authors have proposed a statistical test for detecting active attitude control. This paper develops a vision-based system that uses a simple motion model along with a Extended Kalman filter to obtain relative attitude measurements of a target body tumbling in space. The vision-based measurements support the statistical test, which is developed in a companion paper. Hardware experimental results are included demonstrating attitude and angular rate estimation of rigid bodies, and are validated by comparison against motion capture truth.

author list (cited authors)

  • Ramos, J. H., Woodbury, T. D., & Hurtado, J. E.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • September 2018