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Attitude Determination and Control

Scope and Description

This topic page covers testing of spacecraft attitude determination and control subsystems (ADCSs). 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. These more complex systems systems depend on a actuators, sensors, and estimation and control algorithms, creating a multitude of failure modes. Because these subsystems are often complex and essential to mission success, ADCS testing is an important task for smallsat developers.

Resources under this topic area are primarily articles and whitepapers describing testing of a small satellite ADCS. Note that more general but relevant resources regarding electronics testing are available in topic pages immediately under "Integration and Test" in this knowledge base and relevant resources regarding software testing are available under "Embedded Software/Firmware > Testing".

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Last Updated:

Nov. 1, 2021

Relatively low-cost testbeds for high-fidelity ADCS hardware-in-the-loop testing can be developed in-house. A Helmholtz cage or single axis coil can provide orbit simulation driven magnetic field control. Attitude control can be demonstrated about a single axis by hanging the system under test and full three degree-of-freedom control can be demonstrated by mounting the system to an air bearing platform.

Last Updated:

Nov. 1, 2021

Hardware-in-the-loop (HITL) testing is a powerful tool for comprehensive verification of attitude determination and control systems. Some ADCS vendors provide software tools for turnkey HITL testing.

Resources

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: Oct. 19, 2021

This master's thesis provides a detailed overview of attitude determination and control systems (ADCS's) ... used on small spacecraft and discusses the development of an ADCS testbed to be built at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Finally, the author describes a MATLAB Simulink model for simulating the performance of the spacecraft's hardware and software ADCS components prior to testing.

Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2021

This resource provides detailed information on the proper processes and procedures for testing the attitude ... determination and control subsystem (ADCS) of a CubeSat. Beginning with an introduction to ADCS on smallsats and ground-based testing to validate the ADCS, this document offers testing examples and previous CubeSat missions that have successfully implemented ADCS testing.

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 2021

This journal paper details the design solutions for developing an attitude determination and control ... system (ADCS) testbed. It discusses cost-effective solutions for developing in-house methods for testing nanosatellite ADCSs at the system and subsystem levels.

This thesis describes an ADCS testbed and verification of its control authority and magnetic field accuracy. ... Theoretical spacecraft attitude concepts and dynamics are discussed as well as CubeSat ADCS test methodology and results.

This research article discusses the performance of commercial-off-the-shelf components of CubeSat attitude ... determination and control systems (ADCS). Specifically, it focuses on the testing of the Adcole Maryland Aerospace, Inc's MAI-401 ADCS subsystem on a Grissom-1 CubeSat.

This thesis provides a detailed review of the development of an air-bearing testbed for CubeSat attitude ... determination and control (ADCS) hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testing. It discusses ADCS systems, CubeSat ground testing philosophy, test facilities, and air bearing platforms for ADCS tests in the first chapter. The 3 remaining chapters deep dive into the air-bearing testbed design and testing approach with an experiment using an AirBall prototype in the final section.

Last Updated: Oct. 19, 2021

This journal paper discusses on-board electronics (OBE) that execute commands for a satellite attitude ... determination and control system (ADCS). From hierarchical design procedures to requirements and constraints, this resource provides detailed information for testing an ADCS system using a hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testbed.

Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2021

This journal paper highlights the Technical University of Munich's MOVE-II CubeSat and the hardware-in-the-loop ... (HIL) and software-in-the-loop (SIL) testing performed to test the attitude determination and control system (ADCS). Additionally, other subsystems including the electrical power system (EPS) and command and data handling (C&DH) computer were validated using HIL testing.

This thesis provides a detailed report on the development of an air bearing test platform to perform ... validation and verification testing on CubeSat attitude determination and control systems (ADCS). The air bearing is housed by a Helmholtz cage to simulate the earth's electromagnetic field at low earth orbit (LEO) altitudes.

CubeSat Three Axis Simulator (CubeTAS)

Article
Hyunwook Woo et al.

Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2021

This paper discusses the air-bearing CubeSat three-axis simulator (CubeTAS) used to test the attitude ... determination and control system (ADCS) on CubeSats. It provides detailed information on the design of the CubeTAS system and controls for testing an ADCS subsystem.