A paper describes a process for imposing safety constraints on a spacecraft trajectory design. The conventional process has the ACS (Attitude Control System) team define geometric constraints, then the NAV (Navigation) team produces a compliant thrust direction profile for the spacecraft to execute. With time-varying thrust profiles, merely specifying geometric constraints is not sufficient. Because low thrust implies low agility under thrust vector control (TVC), even slowly developing spacecraft dynamics can be significant and geometric constraints can have dynamic implications. The thrust profile design process was modified to incorporate a new tool, known as qSTAT, which analyzes candidate thrust profiles for compliance with geometric and dynamic constraints by simulating an appropriately reduced set of spacecraft dynamics. qSTAT gives the navigation team a simplified attitude control simulation tool that can quickly be used to analyze multiple candidate thrust profile designs. The Dawn mission operation team uses this tool to improve productivity.
This work was done by Brett A. Smith, Charles A. Vanelli, and Allan Y. Lee of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.