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Controlling Attitude of a Solar-Sail Spacecraft Using Vanes

A paper discusses a concept for controlling the attitude and thrust vector of a three-axis stabilized Solar Sail spacecraft using only four single degree of freedom articulated spar-tip vanes. The vanes, at the corners of the sail, would be turned to commanded angles about the diagonals of the square sail. Commands would be generated by an adaptive controller that would track a given trajectory while rejecting effects of such disturbance torques as those attributable to offsets between the center of pressure on the sail and the center of mass. The controller would include a standard proportional + derivative part, a feed forward part, and a dynamic component that would act like a generalized integrator. The controller would globally track reference signals, and in the presence of such control actuator constraints as saturation and delay, the controller would utilize strategies to cancel or reduce their effects. The control scheme would be embodied in a robust, nonlinear algorithm that would allocate torques among the vanes, always finding a stable solution arbitrarily close to the global optimum solution of the control effort allocation problem. The solution would include an acceptably small angle, slow limit-cycle oscillation of the vanes, while providing overall thrust vector pointing stability and performance.

This work was done by Edward Mettler, Ahmet Acikmese, and Scott Ploen of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Mechanics category.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-42156.

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