The Miniature Variable-Speed Control Moment Gyroscope (MVS-CMG) was designed for small satellites (mass from less than 1 kg up to 500 kg). Currently available CMGs are too large and heavy, and available miniature CMGs do not provide sufficient control authority for use on practical satellites. This primarily results from the need to greatly increase the speed of rotation of the flywheel in order to reduce the flywheel size and mass. This goal was achieved by making use of a proprietary, space-qualified, high-speed (100,000 rpm) motor technology to spin the flywheel at a speed ten times faster than other known miniature CMGs under development.

NASA is supporting innovations in propulsion, power, and guidance and navigation systems for low-cost small spacecraft. One of the key enabling technologies is attitude control mechanisms. CMGs are particularly attractive for spacecraft attitude control since they can achieve higher torques with lower mass and power than reaction wheels, and they provide continuous torque capability that enables precision pointing (in contrast to on-off thruster control).

The aim of this work was to develop a miniature, variable-speed CMG that is sized for use on small satellites. To achieve improved agility, these spacecraft must be able to slew at high rate, which requires attitude control actuators that can apply torques on the order of 5 N·m. The MVS-CMG is specifically designed to achieve a high-torque output with a minimum flywheel and system mass. The flywheel can be run over a wide range of speeds, which is important to help reduce/eliminate potential gimbal lock, and can be used to optimize the operational envelope of the CMG.

This work was done by Steve Bilski, Robert Kline-Schoder, and Paul Sorensen of Creare Inc. for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-15887-1