Optimal on-off cooperative manoeuvers for long-term satellite cluster flight

Mazal, Leonel and Mingotti, Giorgio and Gurfil, Pini (2014) Optimal on-off cooperative manoeuvers for long-term satellite cluster flight. Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics, 37 (2). pp. 391-402. ISSN 1533-3884

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    Abstract

    When a group of satellites is equipped with a particulary simple propul- sion system, e.g. cold-gas thrusters, constraints on the thrust level and total propellant mass renders cluster-keeping extremely challenging. This is even more pronounced in disaggregated space architectures, in which a satellite is formed by clustering a number of heterogenous, free-flying modules. The research described in this paper develops guidance laws aimed at keeping the relative distances between the cluster modules bounded for long mission lifetimes, typically more than a year, while utilizing constant-magnitude low-thrust, with a characteristic on-off profile. A cooperative guidance law capable of cluster establishment and maintenance under realistic environ- mental perturbations is developed. The guidance law is optimized for fuel consumption, subject to relative distance constraints. Some of the solutions found to the optimal guidance problem require only a single maneuver arc to keep the cluster within relatively close distances for an entire year.