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  • Spacecraft Formation Flying using Bifurcating Potential Field Methods

    Paper number



    Mr. Derek Bennet, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom


    Prof. Colin R. McInnes, University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom



    Multiple spacecraft formation-flying is a developing technology that has been shown to successfully improve the functionality of a system in comparison with a large single spacecraft. The distributed control architecture used for spacecraft formation-flying can be split into centralised or decentralised control. The centralised leader-follower architecture, for example, has been proved successful in the Landsat-7 and Earth Observing-1 satellites although has the disadvantages of being controlled discretely on the ground and is therefore dependent upon the central controller and is susceptible to failure. Autonomous decentralised control is a promising approach to overcome these issues. By allowing the spacecraft to interact and generate an emergent behaviour the system is not dependent upon a central controller and is robust to failures of individual spacecraft. 
    Through the use of dynamical systems theory and the artificial potential method we have shown that we can achieve decentralised autonomous control of a formation whilst being able to prove the stability of the system so that desired behaviours will always occur. We have also shown that through bifurcation theory we can generate a flexible formation that can transition between patterns through a simple parameter change. We extend this work by considering the real issue of actuator saturation and develop new bounded control laws. These new laws are then implemented in a formation placed at the Sun-Earth L2 point and the results are discussed.    
    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-08.C1.6.4.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.