Many NASA science missions are exploring the use of pico- and nano-satellites as alternatives to expensive, large satellites. In order to enable their mission profiles, these satellites need high accuracy attitude determination sensors. Our star tracker will enable highly precise attitude determination (i.e., 1 arc second or better) in a package that is significantly smaller, has much lower mass, and uses less power than any alternative star trackers on the market with comparable accuracy. As the market for and uses of small and nano satellites increases, the demand for our star tracker will increase to enable missions that are not possible with today's technology. Furthermore, the compact star tracker will enable high accuracy attitude determination on sounding rockets and high-altitude balloon missions, which will be useful for a variety of science payloads.
Both the military and commercial ventures are looking to small satellites to provide a cost effective space mission platform. However, the majority of missions still require high attitude accuracy. There is therefore a need for compact high-accuracy star tracker technology. Furthermore, the military is looking at star trackers for high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attitude determination. These will typically need to provide arc-second accuracy in a small form factor with low power demands, which makes our proposed miniaturized star tracker ideally suited. Furthermore, our reflective optics can readily be adapted to act as a powerful telescope for imaging applications in both the visible band and in the near and far infrared spectrum. This opens up applications in reconnaissance, surveillance, and search and rescue operation.