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Orbit control of high area-to-mass ratio spacecraft using electrochromic coating

Lucking, Charlotte and Colombo, C. and McInnes, C.R. (2010) Orbit control of high area-to-mass ratio spacecraft using electrochromic coating. In: 61st International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2010, 2010-09-27 - 2010-10-01.

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This paper presents a novel method for the orbit control of high area-to-mass ratio spacecraft, such as spacecraft-on-a-chip, future „smart dust‟ devices and inflatable spacecraft. By changing the reflectivity coefficient of an electrochromic coating of the spacecraft, the perturbing effect of solar radiation pressure (SRP) is exploited to enable long-lived orbits and to control formations, without the need for propellant consumption or active pointing. The spacecraft is coated with a thin film of an electrochromic material that changes its reflectivity coefficient when a small current is applied. The change of reflectance alters the fraction of the radiation pressure force that is transmitted to the satellite, and hence has a direct effect on the spacecraft orbit evolution. The orbital element space is analysed to identify orbits which can be stabilised with electrochromic orbit control. A closed-loop feedback control method using an artificial potential field approach is introduced to stabilise these otherwise unsteady orbits. The stability of this solution is analysed and verified through numerical simulation. Finally, a test case is simulated in which the control method is used to perform orbital manoeuvres for a spacecraft formation.