High precision relative position sensing system for formation flying spacecraft

Metadata Updated: November 12, 2020

We propose to develop and test an optical sensing system that provides high precision relative position sensing for formation flying spacecraft.  A high precision optical ranger provides longitudinal position sensing to 0.1 mm precision for distances ranging from under one meter to hundreds of meters while an optical centration sensor provides transverse position sensing with 1 micron or better sensitivity.  Uses for this technology cover a broad range of science, including high resolution imaging and coronagraph imaging in Heliophysics, as well as X-ray imaging, gamma-ray imaging, and exoplanet imaging in Astrophysics.IntroductionWe propose to provide a relative position sensing system that will enable the development of distributed optical telescopes in space. Our proposed relative position sensing system consists of two subsystems.  A precision laser ranger will use optical time of flight to measure the linear separation between two spacecraft while a centration monitor will sense linear motion transverse to the line of sight between the spacecraft. Our proposed relative position monitoring system would enable a number of distributed instrument concepts based on formation flying spacecraft.  For example, a photon sieve solar imager operating in the EUV with ~1 milliarcsecond resolution would require adjustable spacecraft separations of hundreds of meters maintained to within millimeters.  Centration and attitude must be maintained to within a single pixel of the science detector.  Our system could meet these requirements, and would be modest in mass, volume, and power consumption.  It is likely that all six degrees of freedom could be sensed with a system consuming less than a total of 0.003 cubic meters (3u) distributed between the two spacecraft.  Our proposed system also has a major advantage beyond relative position accuracy.  The ranging system is based on laser communication technology, but the ranger only employs a small fraction of the overall data capacity.  If the ranger is operated at 622 Mbit/s, approximately 600 Mbit/s is available for communication between the spacecraft at the same time as providing ranging data with ~0.1 mm accuracy.  This potentially eliminates the need for a separate communication system between the two spacecraft.Our near term goal is to mature technology to a sufficient level that it could be included in a precision formation flyer technology demonstration mission.  We believe that a cubesat mission would be sufficient to demonstrate this technology and could be proposed as early as late 2017. Detailed Description of Proposed SystemWe assume a distributed telescope comprised of two spacecraft where the detector spacecraft (DSC) is positioned in space according to existing technologies (e.g. star trackers, sun sensors, etc.) while the position of the optic spacecraft (OSC) is monitored and adjusted to remain in alignment with the DSC.     Our proposed position monitoring system consists of two subsystems:  a precision laser ranger and a centration monitorPrecision Laser Ranger:  A modulated laser beam is fired from the DSC toward a corner cube reflector mounted on the OSC and returned to a detector on the DSC. The time of flight is used to calculate the distance of separation (z).  This system is based on a laser communication method developed by Yang et. al. at GSFC.  It employs telecommunications 1.5 micron laser diodes and detector modules that have already undergone considerable testing and qualification.  High resolution relative position sensing between spacecraft is a new application for this technology.  Information imbedded in the header of the data packets is analyzed to provide the position data.We expect our high precision laser ranger to operate over a rang

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Metadata Created Date November 12, 2020
Metadata Updated Date November 12, 2020

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Harvested from NASA Data.json

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Resource Type Dataset
Metadata Created Date November 12, 2020
Metadata Updated Date November 12, 2020
Publisher Space Technology Mission Directorate
Unique Identifier Unknown
Identifier TECHPORT_90793
Data First Published 2018-09-01
Data Last Modified 2020-01-29
Public Access Level public
Bureau Code 026:00
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Metadata Catalog ID https://data.nasa.gov/data.json
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Harvest Source Id 58f92550-7a01-4f00-b1b2-8dc953bd598f
Harvest Source Title NASA Data.json
Homepage URL https://techport.nasa.gov/view/90793
Program Code 026:027
Source Datajson Identifier True
Source Hash ea361be6763010c02d835097cbecad08707ec572
Source Schema Version 1.1

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