During the last decade improvements in electronics, on-board processing power and software design has lead to significant advances in the development of autonomous instrumentation for spacecraft use. The Advanced Stellar Compass (ASC) and the newly developed micro-ASC (mu ASC) are excellent examples of such autonomous space instrumentation. With its full autonomy, this star tracker is capable of providing, in real-time, the absolute orientation with respect to the celestial reference frame with an accuracy of a few arc seconds. This high accuracy along with the robust operations, low weight and power consumption makes the mu ASC an ideal instrument for small, high yielding satellite missions. The ASC has hitherto been used by the satellite AOCS and the high accuracy scientific instrument for attitude recovery (among others onboard ORSTED, CHAMP, and GRACE), and satellite high accuracy target acquisition and pointing (PROBA). Here three applications of the mu ASC as an autonomous onboard precision guide for precision vector instrumentation are presented. These are autonomous onboard antenna guidance, telescope guidance and tracking and high accuracy and wide range laser rangers.
Acta Astronautica, 2006, Vol 59, Issue 8-11, p. 981-989