Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


David K Geller


The proposed thesis of this dissertation has both a practical element and theoretical component which aim to answer key questions related to the use of angles-only navigation for autonomous orbital rendezvous. The first and fundamental principle to this work argues that an angles-only navigation filter can determine the relative position and orientation (pose) between two spacecraft to perform the necessary maneuvers and close proximity operations for autonomous orbital rendezvous. Second, the implementation of angles-only navigation for on-orbit applications is looked upon with skeptical eyes because of its perceived limitation of determining the relative range between two vehicles. This assumed, yet little understood subtlety can be formally characterized with a closed-form analytical observability criteria which specifies the necessary and sufficient conditions for determining the relative position and velocity with only angular measurements. With a mathematical expression of the observability criteria, it can be used to 1) identify the orbital rendezvous trajectories and maneuvers that ensure the relative position and velocity are observable for angles-only navigation, 2) quantify the degree or level of observability and 3) compute optimal maneuvers that maximize observability. In summary, the objective of this dissertation is to provide both a practical and theoretical foundation for the advancement of autonomous orbital rendezvous through the use of angles-only navigation.




This work was revised and made publicly available electronically on August 3, 2011.