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Manoeuvre Planning Architecture for the Optimisation of Spacecraft Formation Flying Reconfiguration Manoeuvres

By Ross Burgon


Formation flying of multiple spacecraft collaborating toward the same goal is fast becoming a reality for space mission designers. Often the missions require the spacecraft to perform translational manoeuvres relative to each other to achieve some mission objective. These manoeuvres need to be planned to ensure the safety of the spacecraft in the formation and to optimise fuel management throughout the fleet. In addition to these requirements is it desirable for this manoeuvre planning to occur autonomously within the fleet to reduce operations cost and provide greater planning flexibility for the mission. One such mission that would benefit from this type of manoeuvre planning is the European Space Agency’s DARWIN mission, designed to search for extra-solar Earth-like planets using separated spacecraft interferometry. This thesis presents a Manoeuvre Planning Architecture for the DARWIN mission. The design of the Architecture involves identifying and conceptualising all factors affecting the execution of formation flying manoeuvres at the Sun/Earth libration point L2. A systematic trade-off analysis of these factors is performed and results in a modularised Manoeuvre Planning Architecture for the optimisation of formation flying reconfiguration manoeuvres. The Architecture provides a means for DARWIN to autonomously plan manoeuvres during the reconfiguration mode of the mission. The Architecture consists of a Science Operations Module, a Position Assignment Module, a Trajectory Design Module and a Station-keeping Module that represents a multiple multi-variable optimisation approach to the formation flying manoeuvre planning problem. The manoeuvres are planned to incorporate target selection for maximum science returns, collision avoidance, thruster plume avoidance, manoeuvre duration minimisation and manoeuvre fuel management (including fuel consumption minimisation and formation fuel balancing). With many customisable variables the Architecture can be tuned to give the best performance throughout the mission duration. The implementation of the Architecture highlights the importance of planning formation flying reconfiguration manoeuvres. When compared with a benchmark manoeuvre planning strategy the Architecture demonstrates a performance increase of 27% for manoeuvre scheduling and fuel savings of 40% over a fifty target observation tour. The Architecture designed in this thesis contributes to the field of spacecraft formation flying analysis on various levels. First, the manoeuvre planning is designed at the mission level with considerations for mission operations and station-keeping included in the design. Secondly, the requirements analysis and implementation of Science Operation Module represent a unique insight into the complexity of observation scheduling for exo-planet analysis missions and presents a robust method for autonomously optimising that scheduling. Thirdly, in-depth analyses are performed on DARWIN-based modifications of existing manoeuvre optimisation strategies identifying their strengths and weaknesses and ways to improve them. Finally, though not implemented in this thesis, the design of a Station-keeping Module is provided to add station-keeping optimisation functionality to the Architecture

Publisher: Cranfield University
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

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