Autonomous Navigation for Asteroid Exploration

Asteroid exploration is an important topic for a variety of reasons. The main scientific interest is due to them being debris from when the solar system initially began to form. However, now there is increased interest due to the potential economic value of asteroid mining as well as increasing interest in planetary defense. For any type of asteroid mission, regardless of the motivation, one of the key elements of the mission would be asteroid exploration and mapping. Current missions to asteroids rely on the use of large communication relays like the Deep Space Network (DSN) in order to aid in spacecraft guidance and navigation. Being able to conduct robust spacecraft navigation while exploring and mapping the asteroid’s properties would further enable cheaper and more reliable asteroid exploration missions in the future.