Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

R. Rees Fullmer


R. Rees Fullmer


Charles M. Swenson


David Geller


As spacecraft today become increasingly smaller, the demand for smaller components and sensors rises as well. The smartphone, a cutting edge consumer technology, has impressive collections of both sensors and processing capabilities and may have the potential to fill this demand in the spacecraft market. If the technologies of a smartphone can be used in space, the cost of building miniature satellites would drop significantly and give a boost to the aerospace and scientific communities.
Concentrating on the problem of spacecraft orientation, this study sets ground to determine the capabilities of a smartphone camera when acting as a star camera. Orientations determined from star images taken from a smartphone camera are compared to those of higher quality cameras in order to determine the associated accuracies. The results of the study reveal the abilities of low-cost off-the-shelf imagers in space and give a starting point for future research in the field.
The study began with a complete geometric calibration of each analyzed imager such that all comparisons start from the same base. After the cameras were calibrated, image processing techniques were introduced to correct for atmospheric, lens, and image sensor effects. Orientations for each test image are calculated through methods of identifying the stars exposed on each image. Analyses of these orientations allow the overall errors of each camera to be defined and provide insight into the abilities of low-cost imagers.