MSN (Marker Support Navigation)

in space.

MSN (Marker Support Navigation)

MSN is an ultra-long-life passive satellite component that support tracking and rendezvous operations. They are designed to withstand space environment and to be well detectable in both the infrared and visual wavelength range. Detectability is ensured by the high contrast against MLI, solar panel and different types of radiator coatings while within the markers the different thermo-optical properties of coatings and the special spatial geometry support the visual based navigation processes.

  • MSN60 to support rendezvous, with signature on visual and infrared wavelength, that can be used to improve pose and attitude determination from 50 m down to 5 m distance between the spacecraft and the servicer. To be able to perform ground-based attitude determination and spinning a laser retroreflector (LRR) is built into the centre of the MSN60, allowing to combine both functionalities in one equipment.
  • MSN150 identifiable in the visible wavelength to support precise pose and attitude determination for the last phase of the capture, from 5 m down to 0 m distance between the spacecraft and the servicer.

MSNs are required if a spacecraft becomes uncontrollable due to a malfunction or other unforeseen reason or just simply after their lifetime. During an active debris removal (ADR) or in-orbit servicing (IOS) mission, relative navigation will be used to approach the uncooperative target. These operations will be supported by MSNs installed scattered on the visible surfaces of the target spacecraft.

The MSN60s can be detected in the IR and VNIR wavelength ranges from 50m to 5m distances, and MSN150 supports the capturing process from 5m.

A 12.7mm diameter laser retroreflector is built into the centre of the MSN60s to allow ground-based satellite motion control.

MSNs are manufactured under ISO 8 cleanroom conditions using only space-qualified materials and processes. The baseplates are made of Aluminium with conversion coating passivation. The coatings are aging-resistant thermo-optical paints.

The development of MSNs is in the qualification phase, currently on TRL5. Based on the current schedule, TRL7 will be reached in the second quarter of 2023.



  • Marker design of MSN60 and MSN150
  • Humidity testing, representing 5 years of on ground storage
  • Environmental testing representing 12 years of in orbit operation:

o Particle irradiation
o UV

  • After each environmental test performance parameters determination:

o visual
o cleaning
o mass
o adhesion
o reflectance
o contrast
o integrity thermo-optical properties (emissivity and solar absorbance)

  • Vibration test
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