A miniaturized instrumentation package comprising a (1) Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, (2) an inertial measurement unit (IMU) consisting largely of surface-micromachined sensors of the microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS) type, and (3) a microprocessor, all residing on a single circuit board, is part of the navigation system of a compact robotic spacecraft intended to be released from a larger spacecraft [e.g., the International Space Station (ISS)] for exterior visual inspection of the larger spacecraft. Variants of the package may also be useful in terrestrial collision-detection and -avoidance applications.

The navigation solution obtained by integrating the IMU outputs is fed back to a correlator in the GPS receiver to aid in tracking GPS signals. The raw GPS and IMU data are blended in a Kalman filter to obtain an optimal navigation solution, which can be supplemented by range and velocity data obtained by use of (l) a stereoscopic pair of electronic cameras aboard the robotic spacecraft and/or (2) a laser dynamic range imager aboard the ISS. The novelty of the package lies mostly in those aspects of the design of the MEMS IMU that pertain to controlling mechanical resonances and stabilizing scale factors and biases.

This work was done by Ching-Fang Lin of American GNC Corp. for Johnson Space Center.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

American GNC Corporation
888 Easy Street
Simi Valley CA 93065
Phone No.: (866) 856-8686,
Fax No.: (805) 582-0098
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refer to MSC-23098-1, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

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This article first appeared in the June, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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