Date of Award

Spring 2022

Access Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering Physics


Physical Sciences

Committee Chair

Sergey V. Drakunov

Committee Advisor

Sergey V. Drakunov

First Committee Member

William MacKunis

Second Committee Member

Brigette Oakes


The landing and reusability of space vehicles is one of the driving forces into renewed interest in space utilization. For missions to planetary surfaces, this soft landing has been most commonly accomplished with parachutes. However, in spite of their simplicity, they are susceptible to parachute drift. This parachute drift makes it very difficult to predict where the vehicle will land, especially in a dense and windy atmosphere such as Earth. Instead, recent focus has been put into developing a powered landing through gimbaled thrust. This gimbaled thrust output is dependent on robust path planning and controls algorithms. Being able to have a powered landing with on-board real-time control algorithms is absolutely essential to exploring the solar system as it is the only effective way to bring heavy equipment or people to a planetary surface.

A robust, efficient, and easy-to-use controls algorithm will be formulated to solve this controls problem known as the \emph{soft landing problem}. Through representing rigid body motion with dual-quaternions, translation and rotation can be represented in a single compact form that is free of singularities and provides the shortest path interpolation compared to any other formulation. These rigid bodies will be shown to follow a desired time-dependent orientation and position through one of the most powerful methods of modern control known for its accuracy, robustness, and easy tuning and implementation -- sliding mode control.