Autonomous docking for a satellite pair using monocular vision

Mienie, Dewald (2009-03)

Thesis (MEng (Electrical and Electronic Engineering))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


Autonomous rendezvouz and docking is seen as an enabling technology. It allows, among others, the construction of larger space platforms in-orbit and also provides a means for the in-orbit servicing of space vehicles. In this thesis a docking sequence is proposed and tested in both simulation and practice. This therefore also requires the design and construction of a test platform. A model hovercraft is used to emulate the chaser satellite in a 2-dimensional plane as it moves relatively frictionlessly. The hovercraft is also equipped with a single camera (monocular vision) that is used as the main sensor to estimate the target’s pose (relative position and orientation). An imitation of a target satellite was made and equipped with light markers that are used by the chaser’s camera sensor. The position of the target’s lights in the image is used to determine the target’s pose using a modified version ofMalan’s Extended Kalman Filter [20]. This information is then used during the docking sequence. This thesis successfully demonstrated the autonomous and reliable identification of the target’s lights in the image, and the autonomous docking of a satellite pair using monocular camera vision in both simulation and emulation.

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