Experimental Testing of Range-based Relative Positioning Strategies for a Swarm of Centimetre-scale Femto-spacecraft

Timmons, T. , Beeley, J., Bailet, G. and McInnes, C. R. (2022) Experimental Testing of Range-based Relative Positioning Strategies for a Swarm of Centimetre-scale Femto-spacecraft. In: 73rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Paris, France, 18-22 Sept 2022,

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Ongoing miniaturisation within consumer technology now makes it possible to fabricate active femtospacecraft (mass under 100 g) with inertial measurement units (IMUs), attitude determination and control, radio communications and a suite of sensors packaged on a centimetre-scale printed circuit board. The extension of femto-spacecraft technology to a networked swarm dispersed from a carrier platform could facilitate massively parallel distributed multi-point sensing. Applications include improved investigation of planetary atmospheres, space weather monitoring, magnetospheric characterisation, gravity field mapping and distributed sparse aperture interferometry. For such applications, in-orbit relative navigation would be a key enabling technology. Determining the location of femto-spacecraft relative to one another within a large network would be essential in adding value to data collected, and in enabling femto-spacecraft to operate in proximity to one another; for example, by using differential air drag to maintain the swarm spatial structure. In this paper, we present the results of an experimental test campaign to implement range-based positioning algorithms for a femto-spacecraft swarm, using only coarse estimates of inter-spacecraft range approximated by received signal strength indications (RSSI). This builds on prior work developing and simulating algorithmic approaches using combinations of optimisation and trilateration-based methods to achieve relative positioning with coarse range estimates. A series of experiments and procedures are detailed for the implementation of relative positioning. The development of a suitable path loss model required to use RSSI as a range approximation is detailed, along with real-time networking and localisation techniques.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Additional Information:This work was supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering under the Chair in Emerging Technologies scheme (Colin R McInnes). Thomas Timmons acknowledges the support of an EPSRC studentship (EP/R513222/1).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:BAILET, Dr Rer Nat Gilles and Timmons, Thomas and Beeley, Dr James and McInnes, Professor Colin
Authors: Timmons, T., Beeley, J., Bailet, G., and McInnes, C. R.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering
College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Systems Power and Energy
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the permission of the publisher
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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
305200DTP 2018-19 University of GlasgowMary Beth KneafseyEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/R513222/1MVLS - Graduate School