Electrochromic orbit control for smart-dust devices

Charlotte Lucking, Camilla Colombo, Colin McInnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
466 Downloads (Pure)


Recent advances in MEMS (micro electromechanical systems) technology are leading to spacecraft which are the shape and size of computer chips, so-called SpaceChips, or ‘smart dust devices’. These devices can offer highly distributed sensing when used in future swarm applications. However, they currently lack a feasible strategy for active orbit control. This paper proposes an orbit control methodology for future SpaceChip devices which is based on exploiting the effects of solar radiation pressure using electrochromic coatings. The concept presented makes use of the high area-to-mass ratio of these devices, and consequently the large force exerted upon them by solar radiation pressure, to control their orbit evolution by altering their surface optical properties. The orbital evolution of Space Chips due to solar radiation pressure can be represented by a Hamiltonian system, allowing an analytic development of the control methodology. The motion in the orbital element phase space resembles that of a linear oscillator, which is used to formulate a switching control law. Additional perturbations and the effect of eclipses are accounted for by modifying the linearized equations of the secular change in orbital elements around an equilibrium point in the phase space of the problem. Finally, the effectiveness of the method is demonstrated in a test case scenario.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1548-1558
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


  • smart dust
  • orbit control
  • space chips


Dive into the research topics of 'Electrochromic orbit control for smart-dust devices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this