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Verification of Pointing-Software

This project aims to support the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with the testing of their fine guidance system (FGS) which is developed for the PLATO space mission from the European Space Agency (ESA).

The goal of the PLATO mission is the detection of exoplanets on a very large scale. After the planned launch of the satellite in 2024 more than a million star systems will be monitored over a period of 3-6 years.

To detect exoplanets the transit method is used. 34 on board cameras will record the starlight over an extended period of time. The resulting light curves are checked for periodically occurring dents which indicate a planet between star and satellite. Further spectral analysis can determine the size, core composition and even the nature of the planets atmosphere. It is expected to find hundreds of new exoplanets, a lot of them with earth-like properties. This method is highly dependent on the stable position and precise pointing of the satellite, which is ensured by the former mentioned FGS.

The FGS will use the output of two of the on board cameras to determine the satellites position relative to some chosen guide stars. Any deviation will be measured exactly and will be countered by thrusters. To ensure the functionality of this and other systems before the launch, PLATOSim was created by the Institute of Astronomy of the KU Leuven, a tool which simulates the output of the used cameras as realistically as possible, in consideration of all known optical and mechanical interferences. The Institute of Computer Vision and Remote Sensing supports the further development of this Simulator and creates independent test scenarios for the testing of the FGS. 



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