Line-of-Sight (LoS) navigation is an optical navigation technique that exploits the direction to visible celestial bodies, obtained from an onboard imaging system, to estimate the position and velocity of a spacecraft. The directions are fed to an estimation filter, where they
...

Line-of-Sight (LoS) navigation is an optical navigation technique that exploits the direction to visible celestial bodies, obtained from an onboard imaging system, to estimate the position and velocity of a spacecraft. The directions are fed to an estimation filter, where they are matched with the actual position of the observed bodies, retrieved from onboard stored ephemerides. As LoS navigation represents a really promising option for the next-generation deep-space spacecraft, the objective of this work is to provide new insights into the performance. First, the information matrix is analyzed to show the influence of the geometry between the spacecraft and the observed planet(s). Then, a Monte Carlo approach is used to investigate the influence of measurement error (ranging from 0.1 to 100 arcsec), and tracking frequency (ranging from four observations per day to one observation every two days). The effect on navigation performance is quantified by two indicators. The first is the 3D position and velocity Root-Mean-Square-Errors, computed once the estimation is considered to be steady-state. The second is the convergence time, which quantifies the required time for the estimation to reach the steady-state behaviour. The simulation is based on a set of four planets, which do not follow the common heliocentric dynamics but rotate around the Sun with the same (distance-independent) angular velocity of the spacecraft. This approach allows the separation of scenario-dependent behaviours from navigation intrinsic properties, as the same relative geometry between observer and observed objects is maintained during the whole simulation. The results provide a useful guide for the next-generation autonomous navigation system, for both the definition of hardware requirements and the design of an appropriate navigation strategy. Considerations are then applied to Near-Earth Asteroid fly-by mission scenarios for the definition of the navigation strategy and hardware requirements. It is shown the importance of relative angles between the spacecraft and the planets. In the single-planet observation scenario, when the angle between the position vectors of the spacecraft and planet approaches a null value, the estimation error decreases. In the double-planets observation scenario, when the separation angle between the two LoS directions gets close to 90°, the estimation error decreases. The main influence on the performance is driven by the measurement error, which with current technologies is shown to be able to provide a position error in the order of a few hundred kilometers, while with a lower measurement error (0.1 arcsec) it would be possible to have a position error below 100 km. Finally, it is demonstrated that tracking frequency plays a secondary role in the performance, and only influences tangibly the convergence time.

@en