Review of the robustness and applicability of monocular pose estimation systems for relative navigation with an uncooperative spacecraft

Lorenzo Pasqualetto Cassinis*, Robert Fonod, Eberhard Gill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleScientificpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
221 Downloads (Pure)


The relative pose estimation of an inactive target by an active servicer spacecraft is a critical task in the design of current and planned space missions, due to its relevance for close-proximity operations, i.e. the rendezvous with a space debris and/or in-orbit servicing. Pose estimation systems based solely on a monocular camera are recently becoming an attractive alternative to systems based on active sensors or stereo cameras, due to their reduced mass, power consumption and system complexity. In this framework, a review of the robustness and applicability of monocular systems for the pose estimation of an uncooperative spacecraft is provided. Special focus is put on the advantages of multispectral monocular systems as well as on the improved robustness of novel image processing schemes and pose estimation solvers. The limitations and drawbacks of the validation of current pose estimation schemes with synthetic images are further discussed, together with the critical trade-offs for the selection of visual-based navigation filters. The state-of-the-art techniques are analyzed in order to provide an insight into the limitations involved under adverse illumination and orbit scenarios, high image contrast, background noise, and low signal-to-noise ratio, which characterize actual space imagery, and which could jeopardize the image processing algorithms and affect the pose estimation accuracy as well as the navigation filter's robustness. Specifically, a comparative assessment of current solutions is given at different levels of the pose estimation process, in order to bring a novel and broad perspective as compared to previous works.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100548
Number of pages14
JournalProgress in Aerospace Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Active debris removal
  • Image processing
  • In-orbit servicing
  • Monocular cameras
  • Relative pose estimation
  • Visual-based navigation filters


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