Attitude determination for balloon-borne experiments

N. N. Gandilo, P. A.R. Ade, M. Amiri, F. E. Angilè, S. J. Benton, J. J. Bock, J. R. Bond, S. A. Bryan, H. C. Chiang, C. R. Contaldi, B. P. Crill, M. J. Devlin, B. Dober, O. P. Doré, M. Farhang, J. P. Filippini, L. M. Fissel, A. A. Fraisse, Y. Fukui, N. GalitzkiA. E. Gambrel, S. Golwala, J. E. Gudmundsson, M. Halpern, M. Hasselfield, G. C. Hilton, W. A. Holmes, V. V. Hristov, K. D. Irwin, W. C. Jones, Z. D. Kermish, J. Klein, A. L. Korotkov, C. L. Kuo, C. J. MacTavish, P. V. Mason, T. G. Matthews, K. G. Megerian, L. Moncelsi, T. A. Morford, T. K. Mroczkowski, J. M. Nagy, C. B. Netterfield, G. Novak, D. Nutter, R. O'Brient, E. Pascale, F. Poidevin, A. S. Rahlin, C. D. Reintsema, J. E. Ruhl, M. C. Runyan, G. Savini, D. Scott, J. A. Shariff, J. D. Soler, N. E. Thomas, A. Trangsrud, M. D. Truch, C. E. Tucker, G. S. Tucker, R. S. Tucker, A. D. Turner, D. Ward-Thompson, A. C. Weber, D. V. Wiebe, E. Y. Young

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


An attitude determination system for balloon-borne experiments is presented. The system provides pointing information in azimuth and elevation for instruments flying on stratospheric balloons over Antarctica. In-flight attitude is given by the real-time combination of readings from star cameras, a magnetometer, sun sensors, GPS, gyroscopes, tilt sensors and an elevation encoder. Post-flight attitude reconstruction is determined from star camera solutions, interpolated by the gyroscopes using an extended Kalman Filter. The multi-sensor system was employed by the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope for Polarimetry (BLASTPol), an experiment that measures polarized thermal emission from interstellar dust clouds. A similar system was designed for the upcoming flight of Spider, a Cosmic Microwave Background polarization experiment. The pointing requirements for these experiments are discussed, as well as the challenges in designing attitude reconstruction systems for high altitude balloon flights. In the 2010 and 2012 BLASTPol flights from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, the system demonstrated an accuracy of < 5' rms in-flight, and < 5" rms post-flight.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGround-Based and Airborne Telescopes V
EditorsHelen J. Hall, Larry M. Stepp, Roberto Gilmozzi
ISBN (Electronic)9780819496133
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventGround-Based and Airborne Telescopes V - Montreal, Canada
Duration: 22 Jun 201427 Jun 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


ConferenceGround-Based and Airborne Telescopes V

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 SPIE.

Other keywords

  • attitude determination
  • balloon-borne telescopes
  • cosmic microwave background
  • pointing precision
  • star cameras
  • submillimeter


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