Tech Briefs

Estimating Relative Positions of Outer-Space Structures

A computer program estimates the relative position and orientation of two structures from measurements, made by use of electronic cameras and laser range finders on one structure, of distances and angular positions of fiducial objects on the other structure. The program was written specifically for use in determining errors in the alignment of large structures deployed in outer space from a space shuttle.

The program is based partly on equations for transformations among the various coordinate systems involved in the measurements and on equations that account for errors in the transformation operators. It computes a least-squares estimate of the relative position and orientation. Sequential least-squares estimates, acquired at a measurement rate of 4 Hz, are averaged by passing them through a fourth-order Butterworth filter. The program is executed in a computer aboard the space shuttle, and its position and orientation estimates are displayed to astronauts on a graphical user interface.

This program was written by Harry Balian, William Breckenridge, and Paul Brugarolas of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-45071.