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Dynamical analysis of an orbiting three-rigid-body system

Pagnozzi, Daniele and Biggs, James (2014) Dynamical analysis of an orbiting three-rigid-body system. In: International Congress on Nonlinear Problems in Aviation and Aeronautics, ICNPAA 2014, 2014-07-15 - 2014-07-18.

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The development of multi-joint-spacecraft mission concepts calls for a deeper understanding of their nonlinear dynamics to inform and enhance system design. This paper presents a study of a three-finite-shape rigid-body system under the action of an ideal central gravitational field. The aim is to gain an insight into the natural dynamics. The Hamiltonian dynamics is derived and used to identify relative attitude equilibria of the system with respect to the orbital reference frame. Then a numerical investigation of the behaviour far from the equilibria is provided using tools from modern dynamical systems theory such as energy methods, phase portraits and Poincarè maps. Results reveal a complex structure of the configuration manifold underlying the dynamics as well as the existence of connections between some of the equilibria. Stable equilibrium configurations appear to be surrounded by very narrow regions of regular and quasi-regular motions. Trajectories evolve on chaotic motions in the rest of the domain.