Interplanetary Spacecraft Inertial Navigation

New nano-g accelerometers have the potential to enable inertial navigation for low-thrust applications, such as deep-space missions, which have previously not been possible due to large measurement errors. This study investigated how VEGA can be used with radiometric tracking measurements for a low-thrust interplanetary spacecraft mission. Developed dynamics model, generated observed measurements, performed stochastic trajectory analysis, model validation, and compared results for new sensor technology.


The study found that the use of VEGA for dead-reckoning will allow a threefold increase in the amount of time needed between radio tracking sessions. Over the duration of a mission to the main asteroid belt, VEGA would allow for over one million USD in reduced mission operation costs associated with tracking. These results would allow a spacecraft to reduce its dependence on the DSN, thus also enabling the DSN to manage a larger number concurrent interplanetary missions.