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Title: Infrared based monocular relative navigation for active debris removal
Author: Yilmaz, Özgün
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 1208
Awarding Body: Cranfield University
Current Institution: Cranfield University
Date of Award: 2018
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In space, visual based relative navigation systems suffer from the harsh illumination conditions of the target (e.g. eclipse conditions, solar glare, etc.). In current Rendezvous and Docking (RvD) missions, most of these issues are addressed by advanced mission planning techniques (e.g strict manoeuvre timings). However, such planning would not always be feasible for Active Debris Removal (ADR) missions which have more unknowns. Fortunately, thermal infrared technology can operate under any lighting conditions and therefore has the potential to be exploited in the ADR scenario. In this context, this study investigates the benefits and the challenges of infrared based relative navigation. The infrared environment of ADR is very much different to that of terrestrial applications. This study proposes a methodology of modelling this environment in a computationally cost effective way to create a simulation environment in which the navigation solution can be tested. Through an intelligent classification of possible target surface coatings, the study is generalised to simulate the thermal environment of space debris in different orbit profiles. Through modelling various scenarios, the study also discusses the possible challenges of the infrared technology. In laboratory conditions, providing the thermal-vacuum environment of ADR, these theoretical findings were replicated. By use of this novel space debris set-up, the study investigates the behaviour of infrared cues extracted by different techniques and identifies the issue of short-lifespan features in the ADR scenarios. Based on these findings, the study suggests two different relative navigation methods based on the degree of target cooperativeness: partially cooperative targets, and uncooperative targets. Both algorithms provide the navigation solution with respect to an online reconstruction of the target. The method for partially cooperative targets provides a solution for smooth trajectories by exploiting the subsequent image tracks of features extracted from the first frame. The second algorithm is for uncooperative targets and exploits the target motion (e.g. tumbling) by formulating the problem in terms of a static target and a moving map (i.e. target structure) within a filtering framework. The optical flow information is related to the target motion derivatives and the target structure. A novel technique that uses the quality of the infrared cues to improve the algorithm performance is introduced. The problem of short measurement duration due to target tumbling motion is addressed by an innovative smart initialisation procedure. Both navigation solutions were tested in a number of different scenarios by using computer simulations and a specific laboratory set-up with real infrared camera. It is shown that these methods can perform well as the infrared-based navigation solutions using monocular cameras where knowledge relating to the infrared appearance of the target is limited.
Supervisor: Aouf, Nabil ; Richardson, Mark A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Infrared imaging ; Thermal imaging ; Space debris ; Simultaneous localization and mapping