Low-earth-orbit Target Design for optical Calibration of the Falcon Telescope Network

Open Access
Nelson, Heather
Graduate Program:
Aerospace Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
November 07, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Sven G Bilen, Thesis Advisor
  • Timothy Joseph Kane, Thesis Advisor
  • Calibration
  • Falcon Telescope Network
  • CubeSat
  • Space Situational Awareness.
In an era in which the orbital space around Earth becomes increasingly crowded with debris, Space Situational Awareness is becoming more and more critical. As a result, innovative and inexpensive methods of tracking and identifying this debris are becoming increasingly popular. The Falcon Telescope Network, a set of 13 small (20-in) telescopes stationed at sites around the world, is one such solution to the issue of debris tracking and identification. The goal of this network is to determine how much information can be obtained about an object in space from the optical signature of an unresolved image. In order to help determine how much information can be learned about a given unknown target, it is useful to have access to a target whose exact properties are known. A target that is passively controlled by a gravity-gradient boom and that has four panels with unique optical signatures (aluminized Kapton film, aluminum, gold, and pyrolitic graphite with two opposing solar panels) is the proposed initial target design for this program. In order to improve the reflection geometry, the sides of the target will fold down after deployment from the P-POD. This target will provide some degree of stabilization, as well as unique optical signatures, while minimizing costs. Future target designs can incorporate more complex stabilization techniques and communication systems that will allow for commanded attitude and exchange of attitude information.