Olli Knuuttila

T411 Dept. Electronics and Nanoeng

My research focuses on autonomous mission impact optimization of CubeSat-standard satellites sent to explore small solar system objects such as asteroids or comets. To achieve highly autonomous and productive missions, following key research areas were identified: 1) optical navigation near a target object, 2) novelty/interestingness detection in images and other types of measurements and 3) AI methods to maximize detected novelty/interestingness. The research will identify the most promising existing approaches and adjust them to our use case.

Reliable and accurate navigation with minimum support from the ground is essential as the communication link to Earth might be unstable and round trip times can be significant. Optical navigation has low requirements on the spacecraft hardware making it possible to include better mission-related instruments. With reliable navigation, it is possible to let the spacecraft do more autonomous exploration as the risk of catastrophic failure decreases. Autonomous exploration and efficient downlink usage are enabled by the capability of detecting interesting features in images or measurements.

For optical navigation, we will look into different local feature detection and extraction algorithms in combination with different scenarios for providing reference features needed for absolute and relative navigation. Traditional scheme with feature matching followed by geometric rejection will be compared to a deep learning based approach by using both synthetic and actual NavCam images taken by e.g. Rosetta spacecraft. For novelty detection, we will evaluate algorithms from e.g. ESA MASTER and NOAH projects, while also investigating the usage of Kullback-Leibler divergence and artificial curiosity as pioneered by J. Schmidhuber.

I'm confident that at least some algorithms validated by simulations can be tested in space, as I have already done some work for Aalto-1 and Suomi100 CubeSats. Additionally, I'm responsible on behalf of Aalto University for the optical navigation in the ESA funded binary-asteroid mission APEX, which is a CubeSat that will be deployed from the HERA mothership after it has arrived at 65803 Didymos.

Full researcher profile


115 Astronomy and space science, 113 Computer and information sciences, 213 Electronic, automation and communications engineering, electronics, Computational data analysis, Automation and systems technology, Remote sensing


  • Esa Kallio Group, Visitor (Faculty)


CNN-based local features for navigation near an asteroid

Olli Knuuttila, Antti Kestila, Esa Kallio 2024 IEEE Access

Auroral Imaging With Combined Suomi 100 Nanosatellite and Ground-Based Observations: A Case Study

Esa Kallio, Ari Matti Harri, Olli Knuuttila, Riku Jarvinen, Kirsti Kauristie, Antti Kestilä, Jarmo Kivekäs, Petri Koskimaa, Juha Matti Lukkari, Noora Partamies, Jouni Rynö, Mikko Syrjäsuo 2023 Journal of geophysical research: Space physics

Radar – CubeSat Transionospheric HF Propagation Observations: Suomi 100 Satellite and EISCAT HF Facility

Esa Kallio, Antti Kero, Ari-Matti Harri, Antti Kestilä, Anita Aikio, Mathias Fontell, Riku Järvinen, Kirsti Kauristie, Olli Knuuttila, Petri Koskimaa, Jauaries Loyala, Juha Lukkari, Amin Modabberian, Joonas Niittyniemi, Jouni Rynö, Heikki Vanhamäki, Erik Varberg 2022 Radio Science

In-Space Radiometric Calibration of Nanosatellite Camera

Olli Knuuttila, Esa Kallio, Noora Partamies, Mikko Syrjäsuo, Kirsti Kauristie, Viktoria Sofieva, Ari-Matti Harri, Antti Kestilä, Jarmo Kivekäs, Petri Koskimaa, Jouni Rynö, Johanna Tamminen, Petri Kärhä, Juha-Matti Lukkari, Arno Alho, Tuija Pulkkinen 2022 JOURNAL OF SMALL SATELLITES

SISPO: Space Imaging Simulator for Proximity Operations

Mihkel Pajusalu, Iaroslav Iakubivskyi, Gabriel Jörg Schwarzkopf, Olli Knuuttila, Timo Väisänen, Maximilian Bührer, Mario F. Palos, Hans Teras, Guillaume Le Bonhomme, Jaan Praks, Andris Slavinskis 2022 PloS one

Ionosphere research with a nanosatellite’s radio wave spectrometer

Esa Kallio, Ari-Matti Harri, Anita Aikio, Arno Alho, Mathias Fontell, Riku Jarvinen, Kirsti Kauristie, Antti Kero, Antti Kestilä, Petri Koskimaa, Juha-Matti Lukkari, Olli Knuuttila, Jauaries Loyala, Joonas Niittyniemi, Johannes Norberg, Jouni Rynö, Esa Turunen, Heikki Vanhamäki 2020

Synthetic photometric landmarks used for absolute navigation near an asteroid

Olli Knuuttila, Antti Kestilä, Esa Kallio 2020 Aeronautical Journal