Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


College of Engineering


Eric Mehiel

Advisor Department

Aerospace Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


The low size and budget of typical nanosatellite missions limit the available sensors for attitude estimation. Relatively high noise MEMS gyroscopes often must be employed when accurate knowledge of the spacecraft’s angular velocity is necessary for attitude determination and control. This thesis derived and tested in simulation the “Virtual Gyroscope” algorithm, which replaced a standard gyroscope with an array of spatially distributed accelerometers for a 1U CubeSat mission. A MEMS accelerometer model was developed and validated using Root Allan Variance, and the Virtual Gyroscope was tested both in the open loop configuration and as a replacement for a gyroscope in a Multiplicative Extended Kalman Filter. It was found that the quality of the Virtual Gyroscope’s rate measurement improved with a larger and higher quality array, but the error in the estimate was very large. The low signal-to-noise ratio and the unknown bias in the accelerometers caused the angular velocity estimate from the accelerometer array to be too poor for use in the propagation step of the Kalman filter. The Kalman filter performed better with attitude measurements alone than with the Virtual Gyroscope, even when the attitude were delivered at a low rate with added noise. Overall, the current Virtual Gyroscope algorithm that is presented in this thesis is not suitable to replace a MEMS gyroscope in a nanosatellite mission, although there is room for future improvements using bias prediction for the individual accelerometers in the array.