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Fractal patterns in fractionated spacecraft

Punzo, Giuliano (2011) Fractal patterns in fractionated spacecraft. In: 62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011, 2011-10-03 - 2011-10-07.

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Multi spacecraft architectures have been addressed in response to the demand for flexible architectures with high reliability and reduced costs compared to traditional monolithic spacecraft. A task that can be easily carried out by this kind of systems is the deployment of distributed antennas; these are composed of, typically, receiving elements carried on-board multiple spacecraft in precise formation. In this paper decentralised control means, based on artificial potential functions, together with a fractal-like connection network, are used to produce the autonomous and verifiable deployment and formation control of a swarm of spacecraft into a fractal-like pattern. The effect of using fractal-like routing of control data within the spacecraft generates complex formation shape patterns, while simultaneously reducing the amount of control information required to form such complex formation shapes. Furthermore, the techniques used ensure against swarm fragmentation, while exploiting communication channels anyway needed in a fractionated architecture. In particular, the superposition of potential functions operating at multiple levels (single agents, subgroups of agents, groups of agents) according to a self-similar adjacency matrix produces a fractal-like final deployment with the same stability property on each scale. Considering future high-precision formation flying and control capabilities, this paper considers, for the first time and as an example of a fractionated spacecraft, a decentralised multi-spacecraft fractal shaped antenna. A fractal antenna pattern provides multiple resonance peaks, directly related to the ratios of its characteristic physical lengths. Such a scenario would significantly improve the level of functionality of any multi-spacecraft synthetic aperture antenna system. Furthermore, multi-spacecraft architecture exploiting particular inter agent spacing can be considered to investigate multi-scale phenomena in areas such as cosmic radiation and space plasma physics. Both numerical simulations and analytic treatment are carried out demonstrating the feasibility of deploying and controlling a fractionated fractal antenna in space through autonomous decentralised means.