Uncertainties and Design of Active Aerodynamic Attitude Control in Very Low Earth Orbit

Sabrina Livadiotti, Nicholas H. Crisp, Peter C.E. Roberts, Vitor Toshiyuki Abrao Oiko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper discusses the design and the performance achievable with active aerodynamic
attitude control in very low Earth orbit, i.e. below 450 km in altitude. A novel real-time
algorithm is proposed for selecting the angles of deflection of aerodynamic actuators providing
the closest match to the control signal computed by a selected control law. The algorithm
is based on a panel method for the computation of the aerodynamic coefficients and relies on
approximate environmental parameters estimation and worst-case scenario assumptions for the
re-emission properties of space materials. Discussion of results is performed by assuming two
representative pointing manoeuvres, for which momentum wheels and aerodynamic actuators
are used synergistically. A quaternion feedback PID controller implemented in discrete time
is assumed to determine the control signal at a sampling frequency of 1 Hz. The outcome of a
Monte Carlo analysis, performed for a wide range of orbital conditions, shows that the target
attitude is successfully achieved for the vast majority of the cases, thus proving the robustness
of the approach in the presence of environmental uncertainties and realistic attitude hardware
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Jan 2022


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