Brunskill, C. and Palmer, P. – The InspectorSat mission is a concept designed to demonstrate complex and close-proximity autonomous manoeuvres around a passive, non-cooperative target, focused on the development of a visual inspection payload for the observation of a co-orbital solar sail. The mission will aim to demonstrate inspection manoeuvres using the visual inspection payload and a novel micro-chemical propulsion system based on microelectromechanical components. The manoeuvres are expected to be autonomously commanded by guidance, navigation and control algorithms that are currently theoretically proven but remain largely untested under laboratory conditions.
This paper presents a description of the InspectorSat mission and two experiments that will enable the testing and validation of the visual inspection payload and its capability for spacecraft control using a microthruster. The visual inspection payload concept and its integration with the microthruster are presented. A new frictionless air table facility built to simulate planar orbital motion is described. Finally a spheroid reconstruction algorithm is tested under laboratory conditions to provide relative position and pose estimates of a passive target.
The results indicate that for a small satellite platform the visual inspection payload and microthruster provide a suitable system for autonomous inspection. The spheroid reconstruction algorithm is demonstrated to provide accurate estimates of relative position and pose of a target object.