Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Space Systems


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Richard G. Cobb, PhD


AFIT is currently developing a capability to remotely and autonomously track LEO satellites using commercial telescopes. Currently, the system is capable of open-loop tracking based on Two-Line Element sets (TLEs) downloaded from NORAD’s space object catalog. The ability to actively track using a closed-loop control system would allow tracking of satellites which deviated from the published TLEs along with providing some information about the object’s new orbital elements. To accomplish closed-loop tracking, the object is imaged by a digital camera connected to a wide field-of-view (WFOV) spotting scope. Software was developed to provide azimuth and elevation inputs in order to center the object within the WFOV. Pixel centroid location along with telescope azimuth and elevation commands can be recorded for use in estimating updated orbital elements. This thesis documents the current efforts towards achieving a remotely operated autonomous tracking optical system. Future application could include networking to other geographically-separated telescopes to allow simultaneous observation of the same space objects to accurately document orbital maneuvers.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number