Planning natural repointing manoeuvres for nano-spacecraft

Craig David Maclean, Daniele Pagnozzi, James Biggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
127 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper the natural dynamics of a rigid body are exploited to plan attitude manoeuvres for a small spacecraft. By utilising the analytical solutions of the angular velocities and making use of Lax pair integration, the time evolution of the attitude of the spacecraft in a convenient quaternion form is derived. This enables repointing manoeuvres to be generated by optimising the free parameters of the analytical expressions, the initial angular velocities of the spacecraft, to match prescribed boundary conditions on the final attitude of the spacecraft. This produces reference motions which can be tracked using a simple proportional-derivative controller. The natural motions are compared in simulation to a conventional quaternion feedback controller and found to require lower accumulated torque. A simple obstacle avoidance algorithm, exploiting the analytic form of natural motions, is also described and implemented in simulation. The computational efficiency of the motion planning method is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2129-2145
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems
Issue number3
Early online date24 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • geometri mechanics
  • motion planning
  • nano spacecraft

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