Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Aerospace, Physics, and Space Sciences

First Advisor

Markus Wilde

Second Advisor

Steven Shaw

Third Advisor

Brian Kaplinger

Fourth Advisor

Daniel Batcheldor


The thesis describes the development and testing of a point cloud based relative navigation sensor. The objective of this research is to provide a low cost, lightweight, low power, and low volume alternative to established rendezvous sensors , in order to enable small satellites to conduct missions such as in-space inspection, on-orbit servicing, and space debris removal. The sensor system must be able to provide relative position and orientation data to a control system independent of the cooperation of the target spacecraft or object. This is done using commercially available hardware (Microsoft Kinect v2) and an open source C++ library (Open3D). The thesis details the logic of the software implementation and provides data to validate the accuracy and precision of the system. Based on lab tests in a controlled environment, the system is able to measure relative position to within 0.005 m along its boresight axis at a rate on the order of 1 Hz. It does so without any knowledge of the target geometry and without specially designed navigation aids placed on the target. The error is based on a “ground truth” position as measured by a 12 camera OptiTrack system which has sub millimeter accuracy and precision.


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