Aerospace Ph.D. student wins first place in national competition

2/8/2024 Debra Levey Larson

Written by Debra Levey Larson

Linyi “Tiger” Hou
Linyi “Tiger” Hou

Linyi “Tiger” Hou, BS ’21 and a third-year Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was awarded first prize in the Student Best Paper Competition at the 46th Annual American Astronautical Society’s Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference held this month in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Hou’s paper is titled, “Lost-in-space Position and Time Determination via Star Tracker Observations of Periodic Variable Stars.” Co-authors include aerospace undergraduate student Ishaan Bansal, mechanical engineering undergraduate Clark Davis, and aerospace faculty member and adviser Siegfried Eggl.’’

“Only a small number of techniques exist that allow a spacecraft to recover from being lost in both space and time, which can be caused by a failure of the onboard clock and navigation systems,” Hou said. “We developed a feasibility study using star tracker observations of variable stars for faster, more accurate position and time solutions compared to existing techniques without requiring additional equipment.”

Hou said their results indicate that 500 seconds of observing variable stars in a smart way with a commercial star tracker may be sufficient for a spacecraft to constrain its whereabouts well enough to find Earth and call home.

Hou has experience with quadcopter flight software development to space systems design and analysis.

This paper includes data collected by the TESS mission. Funding for the TESS mission is provided by the NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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This story was published February 8, 2024.