Attitude determination for balloon-borne experiments

Stepp, Larry M., Gilmozzi, Roberto, Hall, Helen J., Gandilo, N. N., Ade, P. A. R., Amiri, M., Angilè, F. E., Benton, S. J., Bock, J. J. et al (2014) Attitude determination for balloon-borne experiments. Proceedings of SPIE9145: Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes V . 91452U. ISSN 0277-786X

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An attitude determination system for balloon-borne experiments is presented. The system provides pointing information in azimuth and elevation for instruments flying on stratospheric balloons over Antarctica. In-flight attitude is given by the real-time combination of readings from star cameras, a magnetometer, sun sensors, GPS, gyroscopes, tilt sensors and an elevation encoder. Post-flight attitude reconstruction is determined from star camera solutions, interpolated by the gyroscopes using an extended Kalman Filter. The multi-sensor system was employed by the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope for Polarimetry (BLASTPol), an experiment that measures polarized thermal emission from interstellar dust clouds. A similar system was designed for the upcoming flight of Spider, a Cosmic Microwave Background polarization experiment. The pointing requirements for these experiments are discussed, as well as the challenges in designing attitude reconstruction systems for high altitude balloon flights. In the 2010 and 2012 BLASTPol flights from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, the system demonstrated an accuracy of < 5' rms in-flight, and < 5" rms post-flight.

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