Collaborative guidance navigation and control of disaggregated spacecraft in the proximity of minor bodies

Massimo Vetrisano, Massimiliano Vasile

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution book

4 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents an investigation of different state estimation techniques to data fuse the measurements coming from multiple heterogeneous sensors mounted on a disaggregated spacecraft flying in formation with a minor body. Each satellite employs and processes the measurements coming from its own on board measurements combined with the information available from the other members of the formation. Embarked sensors include L1DAR, radar altimeter, high resolution cameras. Various set of sensors are mounted on different satellites in the formation. The orbit determination process is based on the definition of an optimal filtering technique suitable for navigation purposes. Three sequential filtering techniques are analysed: an unscented Kalman filter, an unscented particle filter and a Kalman filter based on high order expansions. Trajectory control is then optimally designed in order to keep the spacecraft orbiting around the asteroid. It is shown that the decentralised processing allows the formation to be single point failure tolerant, since the failure of one spacecraft marginally affects spacecraft operations. When failure on a single spacecraft occurs, other members of the formation can supply for the necessary information which still allows the spacecraft to determine its orbit. A particular strategy applicable to N spacecraft is developed and results are applied to a four spacecraft formation. The use of a disaggregated spacecraft, or swarm, will endow each of the members of the formation with a higher degree of autonomy allowing for accurate autonomous orbit determination with limited intervention from ground. This capability goes into the direction of reducing mission management costs and increasing real time operations which enable to extend mission objectives. Such missions require the definition of particular navigation strategies able to increase the mission reliability and the possibility of coping with both unknown environment and system performance uncertainties. Spacecraft dynamics takes into consideration the effects of gravitational forces from the Sun and the asteroid and solar pressure. In particular the rotation of the inhomogeneous gravity field of the asteroid is modelled and included in the description of the motion of the formation. The paper presents some case studies of a collaborative spacecraft formation flying in the proximity of a minor body. Copyright

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication63rd International Astronautical Congress 2012, IAC 2012
Place of PublicationParis, France
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012
Event63rd International Astronautical Congress 2012, IAC 2012 - Naples, Italy
Duration: 1 Oct 20125 Oct 2012

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
ISSN (Print)0074-1795


Conference63rd International Astronautical Congress 2012, IAC 2012


  • Autonomy
  • Disaggregated spacecraft
  • GNC
  • High order taylor expansions
  • Kalman filtering
  • Minor body proximity


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