Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

John A Christian

Committee Co-Chair

John A Christian

Committee Member

Thomas Evans

Committee Member

Jason Grosss


Flash LIDAR is an important new sensing technology for relative navigation; these sensors have shown promising results during rendezvous and docking applications involving a cooperative vehicle. An area of recent interest is the application of this technology for pose estimation with non-cooperative client vehicles, in support of on-orbit satellite servicing activities and asteroid redirect missions. The capability for autonomous rendezvous with non-cooperative satellites will enable refueling and servicing of satellites (particularly those designed without servicing in mind), allowing these vehicles to continue operating rather than being retired. Rendezvous with an asteroid will give further insight to the origin of individual asteroids. This research investigates numerous issues surrounding pose performance using LIDAR. To begin analyzing the characteristics of the data produced by Flash LIDAR, simulated and laboratory testing have been completed. Observations of common asteroid materials were made with a surrogate LIDAR, characterizing the reflectivity of the materials. A custom Iterative Closest Point (ICP) algorithm was created to estimate the relative position and orientation of the LIDAR relative to the observed object. The performance of standardized pose estimation techniques (including ICP) has been examined using non-cooperative data as well as the characteristics of the materials that will potentially be observed during missions. For the hardware tests, a SwissRanger ToF camera was used as a surrogate Flash LIDAR.