A document describes mathematical derivations and applications of autonomous guidance algorithms for maneuvering spacecraft in the vicinities of small astronomical bodies like comets or asteroids. These algorithms compute fuel- or energy-optimal trajectories for typical maneuvers by solving the associated optimal-control problems with relevant control and state constraints. In the derivations, these problems are converted from their original continuous (infinite-dimensional) forms to finite-dimensional forms through (1) discretization of the time axis and (2) spectral discretization of control inputs via a finite number of Chebyshev basis functions. In these doubly discretized problems, the Chebyshev coefficients are the variables. These problems are, variously, either convex programming problems or programming problems that can be convexified. The resulting discrete problems are convex parameter-optimization problems; this is desirable because one can take advantage of very efficient and robust algorithms that have been developed previously and are well established for solving such problems. These algorithms are fast, do not require initial guesses, and always converge to global optima. Following the derivations, the algorithms are demonstrated by applying them to numerical examples of fly-by, descent-to-hover, and ascent-from-hover maneuvers.

This work was done by A. Bechet Acikmese and David Bayard of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free online at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Information Sciences 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-41322.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Algorithms for Maneuvering Spacecraft Around Small Bodies

(reference NPO-41322) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the August, 2006 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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