A momentum management tool was designed for the Dawn low-thrust interplanetary spacecraft en route to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, in an effort to better understand the early creation of the solar system. Momentum must be managed to ensure the spacecraft has enough control authority to perform necessary turns and hold a fixed inertial attitude against external torques. Along with torques from solar pressure and gravity-gradients, ion-propulsion engines produce a torque about the thrust axis that must be countered by the four reaction wheel assemblies (RWA).
MomProf is a ground operations tool built to address these concerns. The momentum management tool was developed during initial checkout and early cruise, and has been refined to accommodate a wide range of momentum-management issues. With every activity or sequence, wheel speeds and momentum state must be checked to avoid undesirable conditions and use of consumables.
MomProf was developed to operate in the MATLAB environment. All data are loaded into MATLAB as a structure to provide consistent access to all inputs by individual functions within the tool. Used in its most basic application, the Dawn momentum tool uses the basic principle of angular momentum conservation, computing momentum in the body frame, and RWA wheel speeds, for all given orientations in the input file.
MomProf was designed specifically to be able to handle the changing external torques and frequent desaturations. Incorporating significant external torques adds complexity since there are various external torques that act under different operational modes.
This work was done by Edward R. Swenka, Brett A. Smith, and Charles A. Vanelli of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.