MicroADS - Spacecraft Attitude Determination System

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Informatics

Abstract

In order to operate correctly, spacecraft need to be able to determine their orientation ("attitude") relative to some other object or objects. Typically, this is currently achieved using instruments such as star trackers and sun sensors. Often, multiple instruments are required per spacecraft to give sufficient field-of-view in all directions, and it is common with sun sensors for separate instruments to be required for each of the components of the direction vector to the light source. Furthermore, when sun sensors are used, it is common to have separate detectors that, respectively, have a low accuracy but a wide field of view (coarse sun sensors), and a high accuracy but a small field of view (fine sun sensors). Existing star trackers and sun sensors are often relatively large (up to ~500cm^3 per instrument) and can be heavy (hundreds of grams per instrument).

Since volume and mass are both at a premium on spacecraft, the development of a low-mass, low-volume attitude determination system that offers high accuracy, a wide field-of-view, and that can reduce the number of instruments required per satellite, would be extremely valuable to both industry and academia.

A novel type of attitude determination system that works on a different principle to existing instruments has been invented at University of Sussex. The system called MicroADS exploits a novel optical architecture to deliver a wider field-of-view and better accuracy than comparable systems. MicroADS is also significantly smaller and lower mass. A patent for the invention has been filed.

This STFC IPS project will raise the technology readiness level of the MicroADS instrument such that it can be rapidly commercialised at the end of the project in order to bring technological, scientific and economic benefit to the UK.

Publications

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Title ATTITUDE DETERMINATION SYSTEM 
Description ATTITUDE DETERMINATION SYSTEM 
IP Reference EP3500870 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2019
Licensed No
Impact Patent applied for in: US, UK, EU, China, India, Russia, and Brazil
 
Title ATTITUDE DETERMINATION SYSTEM 
Description An instrument (20) determines the attitude of a spacecraft (3) on which it is mounted, by interacting incident light (11) from the Sun with one or more light conditioning elements (12) and thereby forming a diffraction pattern at a photo- sensitive detector (13). The intensity distribution of light on the detector (13) is dependent on the angle of incidence of the light (11). An on-board computer (16) determines a direction vector to the Sun based on the light diffraction pattern detected by the detector (13). 
IP Reference WO2018037218 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed No
Impact Patent applied for in: US, UK, EU, China, India, Russia, and Brazil
 
Title ATTITUDE DETERMINATION SYSTEM 
Description An instrument (20) determines the attitude of a spacecraft (3) on which it is mounted, by interacting incident light (11) from the Sun with one or more light conditioning elements (12) and thereby forming a diffraction pattern at a photo-sensitive detector (13). The intensity distribution of light on the detector (13) is dependent on the angle of incidence of the light (11). An on-board computer (16) determines a direction vector to the Sun based on the light diffraction pattern detected by the detector (13). 
IP Reference US2019212413 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2019
Licensed No
Impact Patent applied for in: US, UK, EU, China, India, Russia, and Brazil
 
Title sistema de determinação de atitude 
Description trata-se de um instrumento 20 que determina a atitude de uma espaçonave 3 na qual o esmo está montado, por meio da interação da luz incidente 11 do sol com um ou mais elementos de condicionamento de luz 12 e, assim, formando um padrão de difração em um detector fotossensível 13. a distribuição de intensidade de luz no detector 13 depende do ângulo de incidência da luz 11. um computador integrado 16 determina um vetor de direção para o sol com base no padrão de difração de luz detectado pelo detector 13. 
IP Reference BR112019003356 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2019
Licensed No
Impact Patent applied for in: US, UK, EU, China, India, Russia, and Brazil