IR Imaging with the Spacecraft Control Toolbox

Many spacecraft are incorporating cameras, both visible and IR, to image other nearby objects. These may be other satellites or space debris. This blog entry shows how you can simulate imaging with the Spacecraft Control Toolbox.

In this simulation a target 1U CubeSat is illuminated by several sources of radiant flux and imaged by a camera located on a chase vehicle. The CubeSat panels have different optical and thermal properties. An exploded view is shown below. The surface properties are for radiators (black), solar panels (blue) and gold foil (yellow).


The target is located in a circular orbit and the chase vehicle is in a similar but slightly eccentric orbit. A camera is mounted on the chase vehicle. The chase vehicle keeps its camera pointed at the target. Solar radiation, earth radiation, and earth albedo illuminate the target. The motion of the two vehicles is simulated for one revolution. The target spacecraft remains between approximately 75 m and 150 m from the chase vehicle.


As the target and chase vehicle move in their respective orbits, the change in temperature of the target CubeSat is simulated. Each of the 6 panels are composed of two triangles. The temperatures of the panels vary based on the thermal properties of each face and the orientation of the spacecraft. The orientation affects the incoming flux for each particular face.


Solar radiation is the dominant source over the course of the simulation but earth radiation and earth albedo also effect the total flux. The solar radiation, plotted in dark blue, clearly shows the times when the earth is blocking the line of sight from the spacecraft to the sun.


A photon detector model is assumed for the IR imaging device. The following flow chart describes the imager model.


The initial output observed by the imager is shown below. It should be noted that for the particular orbit and orientation initial conditions specified, the z component of the relative position is always equal to zero. This means that only the x and y panels of the cube will be visible throughout the simulation. It is possible to specify different initial conditions that would result in a z relative position, and in this case, up to three faces of the cube can be detected.


We have created a video that displays the imager results as a sequence.


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