Spacecraft docking, landing and star tracking are critical operations in various space missions.
Docking provides the opportunity to joint two vehicles in order to change crews and deliver
resources to a spacecraft. One of the main challenges in docking is to perform real-time tracking
of the docking point for a precise and rapid feedback to the control system in order to achieve
reliable operations. The same requirements are found for landing operations and star-tracking
with main difference that the ground or sky is used for position and attitude tracking.
Docking operations found multiple earth counterpart applications. Many of these earth-based
applications concern the use of robotic devices to grab a specific object. In these cases various
location parameters of the object are needed, such as rotation angle, scale and position.
INO has developed a compact lightweight optical correlator prototype. This prototype provides a
tool for the evaluation of various applications. In collaboration with ESA, INO studied the use of
an optical correlator for selected space applications such as rendez-vous and docking, landing
and star tracking operations. Optical correlator provides beyond real-time image processing
capabilities and is well suited for target identification and positioning purpose. The optical
correlator also shows low power consumption.
In this paper, the latest analyses of the docking and landing applications are presented. For
evaluation purpose, video sequences of Soyuz docking the International Space Station (ISS)
were used. In the case of landing, moon images acquired in the SMART-1 mission, during its last
orbits, were used. Mt. Wilson telescope images were used for star tracking examples.