SRP-based orbit control for solar sailing with application to NEA Scout

Performed at NASA JPL

NEA Scout (Image credits: NASA)

With appropriate control algorithms, solar radiation pressure (SRP) can be effectively utilized as a fuel-free orbit control source. Solar sails are one of the promising types of spacecrafts to exploit SRP for interplanetary orbit transfers and proximity operations around asteroids. Such an orbit control concept, termed SRP-based orbit control, shares some features with the well-studied low-thrust orbit control, but differs from it in terms of the control variables and degrees of freedom in the orbit controllability.

This project intends to develop an SRP-based orbit controller for solar sailing mission applications. Interplanetary transfers and asteroid proximity operations using SRP will be considered; developing asteroid close proximity strategies of the NEA Scout mission would be one of the specific applications. Introducing a sophisticated control gain such as the Q-law would further improve the controller performance. In addition, since solar sails are expected to have large uncertainties inherently in their thrust performances, a robust orbit control approach would be also explored.