The accurate pointing and control of satellites affects the transmission of voice and data communications transmitted through satellite networks. Three inventors from Boeing Satellite Systems—Yeong Wei Wu, Douglas Hein, and David Augenstein—have patented a method and apparatus for controlling spacecraft. The patent involves stellar inertial technology, which uses star trackers for determining the orientation and position of satellites relative to the Earth. Star trackers are on-board telescopes that scan areas in space and digitally record the position and brightness of stars. Processors onboard the satellites compare the digitally recorded images to star maps stored in memory for determining the spacecraft's exact position. The co-inventors discovered that by rotating the star tracker 45 degrees so that imaged stars cross pixels on a diagonal path, they reduced errors by 50%. "The reduction in image errors allows for the precision pointing accuracy called for in a number of leading-edge satellite systems," says Loren Slafer, a chief technologist at Boeing Satellite Systems. Contact George Torres at (310) 364-5777.
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