Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering Physics


Physical Sciences

Committee Chair

Sergey V. Drakunov, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

William MacKunis, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Edwin J. Mierkiewicz, Ph.D.


NASA’s Artemis program and other government and commercial projects are working toward establishing a sustainable human presence on the moon. This thesis investigates the technical feasibility of a solar sail-based spacecraft (sailcraft) as a low-cost method of delivering cargo or science instruments to the moon and demonstrates how this sailcraft could be controlled to change its orbit. The concept is a low-cost, commercial launch vehicle-deployable, CubeSat-based sailcraft with a square sail, assumed attitude control, and a small payload traversing from low-Earth orbit toward the moon with zero propellant use. In this thesis, methods for sailcraft to increase altitude, the trajectory design process, and zero-propellant attitude control actuator options are explored. Three increasingly complex mathematical models were built in MATLAB around thrust vector control designs to get the concept sailcraft from Earth orbit toward the moon and transit simulations conducted. The third and most promising model developed a linear quadratic regulator controller to follow a logarithmic spiral reference trajectory and ensure the stability of the solution. As a result, a robust thrust vector control solution to minimize error from the reference trajectory was found and a solution method to assign the control gain matrix was developed.

M. Nadeau Thesis Signature Page.pdf (334 kB)
Thesis Signature Page

M. Nadeau Thesis Submission Form.pdf (150 kB)
Thesis Submission Form

M. Nadeau Thesis Defense.mp4 (351004 kB)
Thesis Defense Video Presentation