Absolute orbit determination using line-of-sight vector measurements between formation flying spacecraft

Original Article


The purpose of this paper is to show that absolute orbit determination can be achieved based on spacecraft formation. The relative position vectors expressed in the inertial frame are used as measurements. In this scheme, the optical camera is applied to measure the relative line-of-sight (LOS) angles, i.e., the azimuth and elevation. The LIDAR (Light radio Detecting And Ranging) or radar is used to measure the range and we assume that high-accuracy inertial attitude is available. When more deputies are included in the formation, the formation configuration is optimized from the perspective of the Fisher information theory. Considering the limitation on the field of view (FOV) of cameras, the visibility of spacecraft and the installation of cameras are investigated. In simulations, an extended Kalman filter (EKF) is used to estimate the position and velocity. The results show that the navigation accuracy can be enhanced by using more deputies and the installation of cameras significantly affects the navigation performance.


Autonomous orbit determination Formation flying spacecraft Measurement constraint Fisher information theory 



This work is supported by the Major Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant Numbers 61690210 and 61690213.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Aerospace Science and EngineeringNational University of Defense TechnologyChangshaChina

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