Optical or vision-based navigation is an enabling technology for satellite autonomous navigation associated to different navigation approaches such as cruising, fly-by, terrain relative navigation, landing, rendezvous and docking between spacecrafts, rigidity of multi-satellite constellations. Since 2001, in many different ESA projects, the author and his team (at INETI and currently at FCUL) have been associated to most of the developments of the optical components of autonomous navigation, in cooperation with space primes or GNC subsystems suppliers. A unique experience related to seemingly simple photonic concepts associated to computational vision, photonic noises, camera tradeoffs and system concepts has emerged, and deserves a synthesis especially because some of these concepts are being implemented in the ESA Proba 3 mission and ESA is currently updating the technology in view of forthcoming planetary missions to Jupiter, Jupiter moons and asteroids. It is important to note that the US have already flown several missions relying on autonomous navigation and that NASA experience is at least one decade old. System approaches, sources of difficulty, some tradeoffs in both (and between) hardware and software, critical interface issues between the imaging and GNC (Guidance, Navigation and Control) subsystems, image processing techniques, utilization of apriori or to be estimated information, uncertainties, simulation of the imaging chain and non-cooperative environments will be addressed synthetically for both passive (optical) and active (lidar) systems.