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Dynamics of Ultralight Flexible Spacecraft During Slew Maneuvers


Marshall, Michael Aaron (2022) Dynamics of Ultralight Flexible Spacecraft During Slew Maneuvers. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/w6na-w476.


Traditional spacecraft design paradigms rely on stiff structures with comparatively flexible appendages. More recent trends, however, trade deployed stiffness for packaging efficiency to stow increasingly large-area apertures inside existing launch vehicles. By leveraging recent advances in materials and structures, these ultralight, packageable, and deployable spacecraft, hereafter referred to as ultralight flexible spacecraft, are up to several orders of magnitude lighter and more flexible than the current state-of-the-art. They promise to deliver higher performance for a wide range of applications, but this comes at a cost, in this case, due to their very low-frequency structural dynamics. Structural dynamics can negatively interact with spacecraft attitude control systems and degrade pointing performance.

These developments motivate the main objective of this thesis: to demonstrate the feasibility and limitations of maneuvering next-generation ultralight flexible spacecraft. To that end, the thesis proposes a quantitative method for determining structure-based performance limits for flexible spacecraft slew maneuvers using reduced-order modal models. It then develops a geometrically nonlinear flexible multibody dynamics finite element model of a representative ultralight flexible spacecraft based on the Caltech Space Solar Power Project architecture to validate this method. The results demonstrate that contrary to common assumptions, other constraints impose more restrictive limits on slew maneuver performance than the dynamics of the structure. In particular, they show that the available attitude control system momentum and torque are often significantly more limiting than the structure. Consequently, these results suggest that spacecraft structures can either be (i) maneuvered significantly faster, assuming suitable actuators are available, or (ii) built using lighter-weight, less-stiff, and lower-cost construction that moves the structure-based performance limits closer to those of the rest of the system. Thus, there is a significant opportunity to design less-conservative, higher-performance space systems.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:flexible spacecraft, spacecraft structure, power-optimal guidance, slew maneuver, geometrically exact beam theory, finite elements, variational integrators, Lie group, flexible multibody dynamics, spherical linear interpolation
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Space Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Thesis Committee:
  • Meiron, Daniel I. (chair)
  • Braun, Robert D.
  • Leyendecker, Sigrid
  • Pellegrino, Sergio
Defense Date:14 February 2022
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship80NSSC18K1177
Caltech Space Solar Power ProjectUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05262022-221946560
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription is basis for Chapter 2 DocumentArticle is basis for Chapter 2 article article
Marshall, Michael Aaron0000-0002-4259-2484
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:14629
Deposited By: Michael Marshall
Deposited On:27 May 2022 23:19
Last Modified:04 Aug 2022 19:16

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