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The objective of the activity was to derive an optimized star tracker design for Telecommunication satellites based on the Faint Star detector. Main development focused on optimizing the use of the Faint Star sensor and the Star Tracker software in order to host the Star Tracker Software in the avionics on-board computer.
The main challenges of the project were the following:
The developed FaintStar-based star tracker provides a unique combination of features that are difficult to match by any star tracker currently available on the market:
In fact, the accuracy and reliability offered by this star tracker is unmatched by any other star tracker with a price tag that is attractive for large constellations.
Competing star trackers – with equivalent accuracy and robustness characteristics – primarily rely on integrated thermoelectric Peltier coolers, resulting in a significant increase in power consumption and a negative impact on boresight thermal stability, instrument reliability, and cost.
The dedicated FaintStar sensor is the key contributor to the high performance and robustness offered by this star tracker.
Integration of this high-end image sensor into a very compact and rigid structural design is – in combination with a 3rd generation optical system – part of the secret behind this unique star tracker.
The key design drivers for the optical head have been:
The star tracker software library is to a large extent based on the Terma heritage star trackers flying on several US and ESA missions. The high level of robustness has been further enhanced using the experience from the long term Cryosat-2 mission. Building on this, the current study has contributed to the development of a user-friendly star tracker software architecture with associated implementation guidelines, making the deployment on future avionics computers an attractive option with predictable resource requirements.
The overall system architecture consists of the following entities:
This architecture eliminates the need for a dedicated computer for processing of the image stream from the optical head, thus reducing total mass and power consumption.
As a proof-of-concept, the STRLib was integrated standalone on a customer-furnished spacecraft computer for interfacing to the optical head. The customer subsequently integrated STRLib in a space and time partitioned safety-critical real-time operating system, thereby demonstrating the ease with which the combination of flight-proven STRLib and high accuracy optical head may be integrated with the avionics platform.
The project has been executed according to the following schedule: