A Review and Gap Analysis of Exploiting Aerodynamic Forces as a Means to Control Satellite Formation Flight
Document typeConference report
Rights accessRestricted access - publisher's policy
Using several small, unconnected satellites flying in formation rather than a single monolithic satellite has many advantages. As an example, separate optical systems can be combined to function as a single larger (synthetic) aperture. When the aperture is synthesized, the independent optical systems are phased to form a common image field with its resolution determined by the maximum dimension of the array. Hence, a formation is capable of much finer resolution than it could be accomplished by any single element. In order for the formation to maintain its intended design despite present perturbations (formation keeping), to perform rendezvous maneuvers or to change the formation design (reconfiguration) control forces need to be generated. To this day, using chemical and/or electric thrusters are the methods of choice. However, their utilization has detrimental effects on small satellites’ limited mass, volume and power budgets. In the mid-eighties, Caroline Lee Leonard published her pioneering work  proving the potential of using differential drag as a means of propellant-less source of control for satellite formation flight. This method consists of varying the aerodynamic drag experienced by different spacecraft, thus generating differential accelerations between them. Since its control authority is limited to the in-plane motion, Horsley  proposed to use differential lift as a means to control the out-of-plane motion. Due to its promising benefits, a variety of studies from researches around the world have enhanced Leonard’s work over past decades which results in a multitude of available literature. Besides giving an introduction into the method the major contributions of this paper is twofold: first, an extensive literature review of the major contributions which led to the current state-of-the-art of different lift and drag based satellite formation control is presented. Second, based on these insights key knowledge gaps that need to be addressed in order to enhance the current state-of-the-art are revealed and discussed. In closer detail, the interdependence between the feasibility domain and advanced satellite surface materials as well as the necessity of robust control methods able to cope with the occurring uncertainties is assessed.
CitationTraub, C. [et al.]. A Review and Gap Analysis of Exploiting Aerodynamic Forces as a Means to Control Satellite Formation Flight. A: Deutscher Luft-und Raumfahrtkongress. "Deutscher Luft-und Raumfahrtkongress 2018 : 4.-6. September 2018 Friedrichshafen : Luft-und Raumfahrt - Digitalisierung und Vernetzung". 2018, p. 1-14.
- Departament de Física - Ponències/Comunicacions de congressos 
- Departament d'Enginyeria de Projectes i de la Construcció - Ponències/Comunicacions de congressos 
- L'AIRE - Laboratori Aeronàutic i Industrial de Recerca i Estudis - Ponències/Comunicacions de congressos 
- TUAREG - Turbulence and Aerodynamics in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Research Group - Ponències/Comunicacions de congressos 
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