ESA

GNC, AOCS & Pointing Laboratory

The Guidance Navigation and Control (GNC), Attitude Orbit Control (AOCs) & Pointing Laboratory supports engineering research, evaluation and investigations for ESA Projects and R&D Programs through prototyping, characterisation and testing of the products related to GNC, AOCS and pointing systems
For general enquires regarding this TEC location please refer to the assigned contacts:

Irene Huertas

Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) Test Facilities

Leo Novelli

GNC and AOCS Sensors Test Facility

Fabrice Boquet

AOCS (Attitude and Orbit Control Systems) & Pointing Systems test facilities

Davide Oddenino

AOCS (Attitude and Orbit Control Systems) & Pointing Systems test facilities
For testing requests, access to lab facilities, training and consultancy services, please refer to:

THIRD PARTY ACTIVITIES

TPA Management system

The laboratories main objectives are to: 

  • Support the technology and program developments by providing specific complementary measurements, evaluating performances / prototypes; preparing and validating methodologies and standards
  • Conduct investigation in case of failure or anomaly occurrence, at component, board, equipment level, to help in determining the root cause of the anomaly, and make independent evaluation and assessment
  • Support innovation, and the initiation of new space mission developments
  • Support pre-flight verification campaigns 
  • Support the post flight analysis tasks with the aim to derive flight performance and increase the knowledge of design and development by lessons learnt
AOCS and Pointing Systems Test Facilities

The GNC and AOCS Sensors Test Facility

The facility supports activities for the development of AOCS sensors and actuators: star trackers, Active Pixel Sensors (APS), sun sensors, gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers, magnetic torquers, etc.

The facility provides the opportunities for early prototyping, characterization, and testing in relevant environment (dynamic, thermal) of new AOCS sensors. This supports the de-risking of industry developments. Additionally, the lab allows the benchmarking of European developments with non-European equipment on a common test bench. Finally, hardware anomaly investigations and the preparation of flight demonstrators are also supported.

Hardware development activities under ESA’s technology programmes (such as GSTP) have supported by the GNC and AOCS sensors test facility, such as: the Faintstar image sensor, Lens R&D’s Bison64 Sun sensor, Lusospace’s demisable magnetorquer, the Sireus series of gyroscopes, Innalab’s AQUILA accelerometer, Terma and Sodern’s star tracker developments, among others.

The GNC and AOCS Sensors Test Facility

Instruments & technical parameters

Thermal Shock chamber

  • ESPEC, model TSE-11-A
  • Temperature range up to -65 to +150˚C
  • Ambient pressure, lab air

Vacuum oven

  • Pressure of 10 mbar to 1100 mbar
  • Temperature range between +20 to +200 ˚C

Sun sensor performance characterization setup

  • Sun simulator based on a Xenon arc discharge lamp
  • Sun intensity up to 10% of solar constant achievable
  • 2 axis rotary table for angular positioning of the Sun sensor, with resolution of 3 arcsec, and repeatability of 7 arcsec (with gearbox backlash correction)

The GNC and AOCS Sensors Test Facility

Instruments & technical parameters

Single-star simulator 

  • Single star simulator based on a Xenon arc discharge lamp and reflective collimator
  • Spectral classes B, A, F, G, M, K can be simulated
  • Visual magnitude range of 2.0 to 7.0 can be simulated
  • 2 axis rotary table for angular positioning of the Sun sensor, with resolution of 3 arcsec, and repeatability of 7 arcsec (with gearbox backlash correction)

Single-axis rotary table with thermal chamber

  • Acutronic AC1120Si equipment
  • Temperature range of -55 to +150˚C
  • Accuracy better than 15 arcsec (peak)
  • Rate range up to 2000 ˚/sec
  • Rate stability of 0.001%
  • Rate resolution of ±0.001˚/sec
  • Expected to be available mid 2022

AOCS and Pointing Systems Test Facilities

The AOCS and Pointing Systems test facility, managed by the AOCS and Pointing Systems section supports R&D activities related to AOCS prototyping, implementation of innovative techniques for AOCS design and tuning, high accuracy pointing and dynamic systems. A new laboratory facility is under preparation to develop and implement best practices for CubeSat AOCS functional testing. The laboratory develops and tests a system mitigating the micro-vibrations generated by a wheel or by a cryo-cooler. This closed loop system uses force cells or IMU as sensors, a MICROLABBOX or a Raspberry PI as CPU, and 6x Proof Mass Actuators.   

Besides, a fast and high definition camera and associated software performs motion amplification visualising and measuring micro-vibrations of complete structures in a non-intrusive way up to 3000Hz.

Instruments & technical parameters

Piezo tip-tilt mirror and associated electronics from PI

S330, S335

IO hardware interface and software from dSpace

MICROLABBOX

Accelerometers and conditioners from PCB

352C33 (x2), 356B18 (x2)

ICP accelerometers from WILCOXON

731-207

Accelerometers conditioners from PCB

482C05

Laser Autocollimator from LDS

CONEX LDS

Fast Steering Mirror from CEDRAT

4-channel charge amplifier from BRUEL & KJAER

NEXUS 2692 (x3)

Optical table from NEWPORT

M-INT1-49-8-A

GNC Test Facility

GRALS

The goal of the GNC Rendezvous, Approach and Landing Simulator (GRALS) is to demonstrate the performance of visual navigation algorithms with hardware-in-the-loop capabilities in a dynamical environment, and to implement and test relative navigation algorithms, in particular for Rendezvous and Landing scenarios. 

GRALS is able to reproduce:

Scaled landing trajectories for planetary or small body-missions descent phase

Scaled and 1:1 trajectories for planetary or small body-missions landing/touchdown phase

Scaled trajectories for rendezvous missions

Scaled and 1:1 trajectories for the final approach and docking/berthing of the rendezvous phase of a mission

GRALS

Instruments & technical parameters

Double system of robots on rails:

33m wall rail with 1.1m robot arm

5.6m ceiling rail with 1.1m robot arm 

Darkening and illumination elements

Ground truth pose estimation system

Optical Navigation Test bed (VISILAB) 

The objective of VISILAB is to support future exploration projects and prototyping innovative vision-based techniques. VISILAB contains a small size, high-resolution vision-based test bed for planetary landing and several hardware elements and cameras. This test bed has been used successfully to demonstrate the performance of visual navigation algorithms with hardware-in-the-loop capabilities, to implement and test relative navigation algorithms. This test bed has also been used to support the review of the domains of camera calibration and visual navigation. The VISILAB also has a UR5 collaborative robot to place a sensor (e.g. camera) on its end and perform open-loop or close-loop GNC simulations. 

Instruments & technical parameters

  • Optical table
  • Visual-spectrum cameras
  • Infrared cameras
  • Darkening and Illumination elements
  • Operator Support Equipment

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WE CAN HELP YOU GET THE BEST OUT OF OUR LABORATORIES 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION REGARDING THE ACCESS TO THE LABORATORY

Contact us via email

Benedicte Girouart

Head of GNC, AOCS and Pointing Division