The research of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Program (YIP) seeks to greatly extend knowledge about spacecraft/atmosphere interactions in Low Earth Orbits (LEO). This, in turn, will enable propellant-free multi-spacecraft missions, exploiting atmospheric Differential Drag (DD). In addition, it will provide a superior platform for onboard estimation of atmospheric neutral density. DD is a non-chemical, propellant-free new concept to generate relative control forces at LEO. This study will build the knowledge necessary for a new way to model and exploit the atmosphere, paving the way for a first demonstration flight. The research objectives are: 1) to create a theoretical framework for understanding and designing analytical, DD-based guidance trajectories for new multi-spacecraft missions; 2) devise a feedback control strategy for accurate tracking of the guidance in a real flight environment; 3) provide an important contribution to atmosphere modeling and particularly atmospheric neutral density estimation; 4) design a spacecraft capable of DD control.
This past spring, two students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering (MANE) received AFOSR Young Investigator Awards for their work in the area of “Propellant-free Spacecraft Relative Maneuvering via Atmospheric Differential Drag” (Project duration: 04/15/2012-04/14/2015. Funding: US$333,991). Both students work with Prof. Riccardo Bevilacqua of MANE.
David Perez, winner of the “Best Student Paper Award for the Category: Spacecraft, Guidance, Navigation, and Control.
Perez, D., Bevilacqua, R., “Differential Drag Spacecraft Rendezvous using an Adaptive Lyapunov Control Strategy”, paper IAA-AAS-DyCoSS1-09-05, 1st International Academy of Astronautics Conference on Dynamics and Control of Space Systems – DyCoSS’2012, Porto, Portugal, 19-21 March 2012.
Skyler Kleinschmidt, winner of the “Best Oral Presentation in a Theoretical Category Award”
Undergraduate research by Skyler Kleinschmidt at the Rensselaer’s Third Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium: “Origami-Based Drag Sail for Differential Drag Controlled Satellites”, Wednesday, April 4, 2012.