Tech Briefs

A document presents computational simulation studies of a concept for stabilizing the attitude of a spacecraft during deployment of such structures as a solar sail or other structures supported by inflatable booms. Specifically, the solar sail considered in this paper is a square sail with inflatable booms and attitude control vanes at the corners. The sail inflates from its stowed configuration into a square sail with four segments and four vanes at the tips. Basically, the concept is one of controlling the rates of inflation of the booms to utilize in mass distribution properties to effect changes in the system’s angular momentum.

More specifically, what was studied were the effects of staggering inflation of each boom by holding it at constant length for specified intervals between intervals of increasing length until full length is reached. The studies included sensitivity analyses of effects of variations in mass properties, boom lengths, rates of increase in boom length, initial rates of rotation of the spacecraft, and several asymmetries that could arise during deployment.

The studies led to the conclusion that the final attitude of the spacecraft could be modified by varying the parameters of staggered inflation. Computational studies also showed that by feeding back attitude and attitude-rate measurements so that corrective action is taken during the deployment, the final attitude can be maintained very closely to the initial attitude, thus mitigating the attitude changes incurred during deployment and caused by modeling errors. Moreover, it was found that by optimizing the ratio between the holding and length-increasing intervals in deployment of a boom, one could cause deployment to track a desired deployment profile to place the entire spacecraft in a desired attitude at the end of deployment.

This work was done by Marco Quadrelli and John West of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Mechanics category. NPO-42176

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Staggering Inflation To Stabilize Attitude of a Solar Sail (reference NPO-42176) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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