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Attitude Determination and Control

Scope and Description

This topic page covers the design of attitude determination and control subsystems (ADCSs) for small satellites. This includes design of subsystem components; selection of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components; and integrated design, configuration, and sizing of the complete subsystem. Smallsat ADCSs vary significantly based on the mission, payload, and associated pointing requirements - from very simple, passive systems (e.g., gravity gradient, magnetically, or aerodynamically stabilized) to complex, active control systems with reaction wheels, magnetorquers, and star cameras.

Resources in this topic area are primarily website databases of smallsat COTS components and case studies for smallsat ADCS design.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Last Updated:

Nov. 1, 2021

Design your attitude determination and control system for on-orbit calibration - not only for ADCS sensors and actuators but also the orientation of any key body frame vectors (e.g., imager boresight) that are likely to deviate significantly from the as-designed or pre-flight orientation due to thermal or launch environment effects.

Resources

Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2021

SPOON is an online database of smallsat components such as payloads, flight processors, antennas, propulsion ... systems, equipment for ground stations, and power systems.

This annual state-of-the-art report from NASA provides "a survey of small spacecraft technologies sourced ... from open literature" with an introduction to each technology, development status and performance metrics for procurable systems, and descriptions of new technologies with reference missions. Section 5 of this report covers Guidance, Navigation & Control (GNC) technologies.

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 2021

This resource provides a detailed review of momentum methods for stabilizing small satellites that require ... highly accurate pointing capabilities. It provides equations, examples, and analysis of various momentum based attitude control systems such as momentum wheels, reaction wheels, control moment gyros (CMG), gimballed momentum wheels, and scanwheels.

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 2021

This thesis on attitude determination and control systems (ADCSs) provides detailed information including ... ADCS hardware types, testing environments, control methodologies, navigation filters, pointing methods, and attitude guidance.

Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2021

This resource provides a detailed review of an X-ray detector payload on a CubeSat developed by a Worcester ... Polytechnics Institute (WPI) student team. It discusses the improvements made to the control algorithm, software test planning, and the hardware components selected for the final CubeSat design.

Last Updated: Oct. 7, 2021

This resource provides a high-level overview of attitude control systems from the most basic examples ... to advanced spacecraft systems. Sections on thrusters, magnetic torquers, dampers, and stabilizers are discussed with images, examples, and common equations used for each.

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 2021

This conference paper describes the design and testing of a prototype attitude control system utilizing ... COTS attitude sensors, miniature reaction wheels, and a micro-propulsion system at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).

Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2021

This thesis provides a detailed overview of the MIST CubeSat's attitude determination and control system ... (ADCS) developed by a student team at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. MIST uses magnetometers for determination and magnetic torquers for control.

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 2021

This article on the University Würzburg Experimental (UWE-3) picosatellite discusses the development ... of an accurate and autonomous attitude determination and control system (ADCS). The UWE-3 satellite uses six magnetic torquers and a miniature reaction wheel for the attitude control system and the attitude determination hardware includes Hall-effect magnetometers, gyroscopes, and Sun-sensors.

This thesis discusses the design and implementation of an attitude determination and control system (ADCS) ... integrated into a nanosatellite. The ADCS consists of an angular rate gyro, star tracker, optical arrays, and cold gas propulsion system. A trade study documents the justification for choosing a reaction control thruster over reaction wheels.

Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2021

This article discusses a 2U CubeSat mission with a primary payload for a convex optimization-based attitude ... guidance algorithm known as the Satellite for Optimal Control and Imaging (SOC-i) Optimal Attitude Reorientation (SOAR). It provides a detailed review of the SOAR technology as well as the overall system design of the 2U CubeSat.

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 2021

This text provides the detailed conceptual and mathematical foundation for spacecraft attitude determination ... and control systems (ADCS). It is intended to be a textbook for students and a reference for practicing engineers.

This online article provides cubesat requirements, guidance, and available product offerings related ... to reaction wheels for spacecraft attitude control. It provides useful background information, guidance, and lists COTS products available on the global marketplace.

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 2021

This video is a recorded webinar that highlights presentations from industry experts on how to select ... an attitude determination and control system (ADCS) for your specific mission. Presenters discuss lessons learned, guidance, and recommendations for selecting COTS ADCS components.

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 2021

This thesis provides a detailed review of passive stabilization techniques that can be used to provide ... attitude stabilization and basic pointing. These techniques include aerodynamic stabilization, gravity gradient stabilization, and passive magnetic stabilization. In addition, the author presents techniques for modeling and simulation of the orbit and attitude dynamics of passively stabilized spacecraft.

Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2021

This site provides CubeSat requirements, guidance, and available product offerings related to smallsat ... global positioning system (GPS) and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receivers and antennas. It discusses how the satellite GNSS networks operate and provides an overview of the available GNSS networks, key performance criteria for GPS antennas, and a list of GPS and GNSS hardware available in the global marketplace.

Last Updated: Oct. 18, 2021

SMAD is a practical handbook for space mission engineering covering all aspects of a space system - from ... orbit and constellation design to operations. This section titled "Attitude Determination and Control" (ADCS) addresses control modes and requirements, the selection of spacecraft control types, quantifying the disturbance environment, selection and sizing of the ADCS hardware, and defining the control algorithms.