Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Bogoan Udrea

First Committee Member

Dr. Mark Balas

Second Committee Member

Dr. Richard Prazenica


The purpose of this work is to discuss the attitude determination and control system (ADCS) design process and implementation for a 12 kg, 6U (36.6 cm x 23.9 cm x 27.97 cm) CubeSat class nano-satellite. The design is based on the requirements and capabilities of the Application for Resident Space Object Proximity Analysis and IMAging (ARAPAIMA) proximity operations mission. The satellite is equipped with a cold gas propulsion system capable of exerting 2.5 mN m torques in both directions about each body axis. The attitude sensors include an angular rate gyro and star tracker (STR), supplemented by the payload optical array cameras.

The dynamic simulation of the satellite includes extensive environmental models and analyses that show how the satellite attitude is affected by aerodynamic drag, solar radiation pressure, gravity gradient torques, and residual magnetic moments. A mechanical propellant slosh model and a reaction torque analysis of the deployable solar panel hinges approximate the internal dynamics of the satellite. A trade study is presented to justify the use of a reaction control thruster actuated system over the more traditional reaction wheel configuration. Both actuation systems are modeled to hardware specifications and their propellant and energy requirements are examined alongside pointing performance.

Two methods of accounting for sensor noise and sampling rates are presented. The first is an extended Kalman filter based on the nonlinear model of a rate gyro coupled with quaternion attitude kinematics. The second presents a gyro-less angular rate observer capable of extrapolating STR measurements to the desired frequency. An additional method uses images from the payload cameras to perform [camera] frame centering maneuvers and to address the possibility of bias in the controller reference signal.

Four different controllers are described to reflect the chronological progression of the ADCS design. The first controller, designed to perform long angle maneuvers and target tracking, utilizes fixed gain eigenaxis control. The same controller is then augmented with a parallel proportional-integral-derivative (PID) type control law using scheduled gains. This configuration is designed to switch between eigenaxis and PID control during imaging procedures to take advantage of the integral control introduced by the PID algorithm. To reduce system complexity, a modified eigenaxis control law, which incorporates scheduled integral control but does not require a switch to PID control, is introduced. A discrete time equivalent of the modified eigenaxis control law is also developed. Additionally, a brief description of a detumbling control law is presented.

Each of the four control laws is paired and tested with the different feedback and estimation methods discussed. An extensive showcase of numerical simulation results outlines the pointing performance of each system configuration and evaluates their capabilities of meeting a 1 arcmin pointing requirement. A comparison of the different properties and performance of each control system configuration precedes the selection of the discrete modified eigenaxis control law as the best alternative.