Joshua J.R. Critchley-Marrows, Xiaofeng Wu, Iver H. Cairns, The University of Sydney, Australia

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Abstract:

This paper explores the concept of a stellar-based positioning system, treating the stars like GNSS beacons to navigate through lunar space. The work is a modern interpretation and extension of notions on autonomous positioning introduced in the days of the Apollo program. As the Moon becomes once again the key destination, with many missions planned over the coming decade, the traditional form of tracking using Earth ground station infrastructure is unsustainable and autonomous navigation is becoming ever more important. The lunar environment is presented as a challenging but achievable reference for visual-based navigation. Most requirements for lunar missions require accuracies at 100 – 1000 m margin, which this paper illustrates to be a possible feat for a star and Moon sensor on its own. The system proposed may also aid and act as a complement to currently envisaged lunar RF-based navigation infrastructure. The literature has presented some studies on similar concepts, but this paper considers the topic from a fundamental perspective. It also focuses on measuring an absolute position, and not a relative location, which many feature recognition algorithms seek to determine. Accuracies in the decameter range may be achieved by the sensor suite. The system considered could be implemented across most lunar mission phases, from lunar transfer orbit to surface operations.