A report proposes the use of waveforms having fractal shapes reminiscent of sawteeth (in contradistinction to conventional regular sawtooth waveforms) as reference signals for pulse-width modulation in control systems for thrusters of spacecraft flying in formation.

Fractal reference signals may also be attractive in some terrestrial control systems — especially those in which pulse-width modulation is used for precise control of electric motors. The report asserts that the use of fractal reference signals would enable the synchronous control of several variables of a spacecraft formation, such that consumption of propellant would be minimized, intervals between thruster firings would be long (as preferred for performing scientific observations), and delays in controlling large-thrust maneuvers for retargeting would be minimized. The report further asserts that whereas different controllers would be needed for different modes of operation if conventional pulsewidth modulation were used, the use of fractal reference signals would enable the same controller to function nearly optimally in all regimes of operation, so that only this one controller would be needed.

This work was done by Boris Lurie of Caltech and Helen Lurie of UCLA 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 Electronics/Computers category. NPO-30402