Satellite serving offers a potential for extending the life of satellites and reducing launching and operating costs.
Proximity operations are necessary for purpose of satellite serving. As the primary measurement system, optical system
can provide the information of relative navigation in near field.
The paper has two main contributions. Firstly, we summarize use of optical systems for guidance and navigation in the
missions of proximity operations in aerospace. Their characteristics vary from the manned missions, which are
performed by astronauts on-orbit, through semi-autonomous missions, wherein human operators on the ground segment
issue high level directives and sensor-guided systems on the space segment guide the execution, to the full-autonomous
missions, which are executed using unmanned space robotic systems. It comes to light that future space operations will
be more autonomous.
Secondly, we present a concept and framework of a vision system for satellite proximity operations, which is
semi-autonomous and can treat with uncooperative satellites. The vision system uses visible and infrared sensors
synchronously to acquire images, which solves the problem of data integrity introduced by ambient illumination and
direct sunlight for visible sensor. The vision system uses natural features on the satellite surfaces instead of artificial
markers for its operation, computes relative motion and structure of the target, and tracks features in image sequences.
Selected algorithms of the system have been characterized in ground environment; they are undergoing systematic sets of
adaptation for space.