Autonomous Guidance Strategy for Spacecraft Formations and Reconfiguration Maneuvers

Theodore P Wahl, Purdue University


A guidance strategy for autonomous spacecraft formation reconfiguration maneuvers is presented. The guidance strategy is presented as an algorithm that solves the linked assignment and delivery problems. The assignment problem is the task of assigning the member spacecraft of the formation to their new positions in the desired formation geometry. The guidance algorithm uses an auction process (also called an "auction algorithm''), presented in the dissertation, to solve the assignment problem. The auction uses the estimated maneuver and time of flight costs between the spacecraft and targets to create assignments which minimize a specific "expense'' function for the formation. The delivery problem is the task of delivering the spacecraft to their assigned positions, and it is addressed through one of two guidance schemes described in this work. The first is a delivery scheme based on artificial potential function (APF) guidance. APF guidance uses the relative distances between the spacecraft, targets, and any obstacles to design maneuvers based on gradients of potential fields. The second delivery scheme is based on model predictive control (MPC); this method uses a model of the system dynamics to plan a series of maneuvers designed to minimize a unique cost function. The guidance algorithm uses an analytic linearized approximation of the relative orbital dynamics, the Yamanaka-Ankersen state transition matrix, in the auction process and in both delivery methods. The proposed guidance strategy is successful, in simulations, in autonomously assigning the members of the formation to new positions and in delivering the spacecraft to these new positions safely using both delivery methods. This guidance algorithm can serve as the basis for future autonomous guidance strategies for spacecraft formation missions.




Howell, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Aerospace engineering

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