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Optimal Electrical Energy Slewing for Reaction Wheel Spacecraft

  • Author(s): Marsh, Harleigh Christian
  • Advisor(s): Gong, Qi
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License
Abstract

The results contained in this dissertation contribute to a deeper level of understanding to the energy required to slew a spacecraft using reaction wheels. This work addresses the fundamental manner in which spacecrafts are slewed (eigenaxis maneuvering), and demonstrates that this conventional maneuver can be dramatically improved upon in regards to reduction of energy, dissipative losses, as well as peak power.

Energy is a fundamental resource that effects every asset, system, and subsystem upon a spacecraft, from the attitude control system which orients the spacecraft, to the communication subsystem to link with ground stations, to the payloads which collect scientific data. For a reaction wheel spacecraft, the attitude control system is a particularly heavy load on the power and energy resources on a spacecraft. The central focus of this dissertation is reducing the burden which the attitude control system places upon the spacecraft in regards to electrical energy, which is shown in this dissertation to be a challenging problem to computationally solve and analyze.

Reducing power and energy demands can have a multitude of benefits, spanning from the initial design phase, to in-flight operations, to potentially extending the mission life of the spacecraft. This goal is approached from a practical standpoint apropos to an industry-flight setting. Metrics to measure electrical energy and power are developed which are in-line with the cost associated to operating reaction wheel based attitude control systems. These metrics are incorporated into multiple families of practical high-dimensional constrained nonlinear optimal control problems to reduce the electrical energy, as well as the instantaneous power burdens imposed by the attitude control system upon the spacecraft. Minimizing electrical energy is shown to be a problem in L1 optimal control which is nonsmooth in regards to state variables as well as the control. To overcome the challenge of nonsmoothness, a method is adopted in this dissertation to transform the nonsmooth minimum electrical energy problem into an equivalent smooth formulation, which then allows standard techniques in optimal control to solve and analyze the problem.

Through numerically solving families of optimal control problems, the relationship between electrical energy and transfer time is identified and explored for both off-and on-eigenaxis maneuvering, under minimum dissipative losses as well as under minimum electrical energy. A trade space between on-and off-eigenaxis maneuvering is identified, from which is shown that agile near time optimal maneuvers exist within the energy budget associated with conventional eigenaxis maneuvering. Moreover, even for conventional eigenaxis maneuvering, energy requirements can be dramatically reduced by maneuvering off-eigenaxis. These results address one of the fundamental assumptions in the field of optimal path design verses conventional maneuver design.

Two practical flight situations are addressed in this dissertation in regards to reducing energy and power: The case when the attitude of the spacecraft is predetermined, and the case where reaction wheels can not be directly controlled. For the setting where the attitude of spacecraft is on a predefined trajectory, it is demonstrated that reduced energy maneuvers are only attainable though the application of null-motions, which requires control of the reaction wheels. A computationally light formulation is developed minimizing the dissipative losses through the application of null motions. In the situation where the reaction wheels can not be directly controlled, it is demonstrated that energy consumption, dissipative losses, and peak-power loads, of the reaction-wheel array can each be reduced substantially by controlling the input to the attitude control system through attitude steering. It is demonstrated that the open loop trajectories correctly predict the closed loop response when tracked by an attitude control system which does not allow direct command of the reaction wheels.

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