Attitude Dynamics and Control of a Spacecraft Using Shifting Mass Distribution

Open Access
Ahn, Young Tae
Graduate Program:
Aerospace Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 21, 2012
Committee Members:
  • David Bradley Spencer, Dissertation Advisor
  • Robert Graham Melton, Committee Member
  • Sven G Bilen, Committee Member
  • Christopher Rahn, Committee Member
  • spacecraft attitude dynamics
  • attitude control
  • combinatorial optimization theory
Spacecraft need specific attitude control methods that depend on the mission type or special tasks. The dynamics and the attitude control of a spacecraft with a shifting mass distribution within the system are examined. The behavior and use of conventional attitude control actuators are widely developed and performing at the present time. However, the advantage of a shifting mass distribution concept can complement spacecraft attitude control, save mass, and extend a satellite’s life. This can be adopted in practice by moving mass from one tank to another, similar to what an airplane does to balance weight. Using this shifting mass distribution concept, in conjunction with other attitude control devices, can augment the three-axis attitude control process. Shifting mass involves changing the center-of-mass of the system, and/or changing the moments of inertia of the system, which then ultimately can change the attitude behavior of the system. This dissertation consists of two parts. First, the equations of motion for the shifting mass concept (also known as morphing) are developed. They are tested for their effects on attitude control by showing how shifting the mass changes the spacecraft’s attitude behavior. Second, a method for optimal mass redistribution is shown using a combinatorial optimization theory under constraints. It closes with a simple example demonstrating an optimal reconfiguration. The procedure of optimal reconfiguration from one mass distribution to another to accomplish attitude control has been demonstrated for several simple examples. Mass shifting could work as an attitude controller for fine-tuning attitude behavior in small satellites. Various constraints can be applied for different situations, such as no mass shift between two tanks connected by a failed pipe or total amount of shifted mass per pipe being set for the time optimum solution. Euler angle changes influenced by the mass reconfiguration are accomplished while stability conditions are satisfied. In order to increase the accuracy, generally, more than two control systems are installed in a satellite. Combination with another actuator will be examined to fulfill the full attitude control maneuver. Future work can also include more realistic spacecraft design and operational considerations on the behavior of this type of control system.