Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Amelia Greig


Benefits of developing missions with multiple formation flying spacecraft as an alternative to a traditional monolithic vehicle are becoming apparent. In some cases, these missions can lower cost and increase flexibility among other situational advantages. However, there are various limitations that are imposed by these missions that are centered on the concept of maintaining the necessary formation. One such limitation is that of the propulsion system required for each spacecraft. To mitigate the complexity and mass of the onboard propulsion, the pairing of electromagnetic actuators and differential drag to replace the functionality of a propulsive system is investigated. By using COTS magnetorquer boards to command satellite orientation, a scenario in which two 3U CubeSats are initially deployed from the ISS NanoRacks at an altitude of 400 km. They are then commanded to achieve a relative separation of 1 km and hold the spacing to demonstrate the capability of formation flight. The scenario was simulated through the MATLAB/Simulink platform and the magnitude of the necessary command torques were determined. By comparison to the ISIS magnetorquer board, the necessary command torques seem relatively high than compared to what the actuator is capable of. The ISIS board may supply ~5e-6 Nm of torque while the mission requires as much as 3e-3 Nm at times. However, by extending the settling time of the control law at the expense of absolute orientation control, the control torques necessary to carry out the simulated mission are well within the bounds of the ISIS magnetorquer boards as well as other COTS boards. With this alteration, mission feasibility is determined. It should be noted that further analysis should be conducted regarding concerns with CubeSat detumble to further confirm feasibility.