A star tracker for CubeSats - Implementation and analysis

Wen Chiao Chen, Shau Shiun Jan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


A star tracker employs images of stars taken by a satellite-based camera to estimate its attitude and angular velocity in space. A star tracker is a flexible attitude sensor, which meets the requirements of a CubeSat. The objective of this paper is to develop an arc-minute accurate star tracker algorithm for CubeSats, and to analyze the results using a software-in-the-loop simulation. The algorithm is divided into three main parts: centroiding, Lost-in-Space (LIS) mode, and tracking mode. The weight sum method is used in centroiding, the voting method and quaternion-estimator (QUEST) method are used in the LIS mode, and the extended Kalman Filter (EKF) and catalog partitioning are used in tracking. Stars images are simulated to verify the algorithm. We evaluate centroid accuracy under different noise levels and star magnitudes, and the results have sub-pixel accuracy. In addition, we show the performance of LIS algorithm. With an appropriate voting tolerance, over 80% of the stars are correctly matched, the attitude estimations have arc-minute accuracy, and the matching results have over a 95% success rate. Also, the performance of the tracking algorithm is showed. The tracking results are successful, and the attitude estimation from the EKF has arc-minute accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationION 2019 International Technical Meeting Proceedings
PublisherInstitute of Navigation
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)0936406216, 9780936406213
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 1
EventInstitute of Navigation International Technical Meeting 2019, ITM 2019 - Reston, United States
Duration: 2019 Jan 282019 Jan 31

Publication series

NameION 2019 International Technical Meeting Proceedings


ConferenceInstitute of Navigation International Technical Meeting 2019, ITM 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'A star tracker for CubeSats - Implementation and analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this