Attitude and Orbit Control During Deorbit of Tethered Space Debris
Due to the unsustainable space debris environment in Low Earth Orbit, debris objects must be removed to ensure future safe satellite operations. One proposed concept for deorbiting larger space debris objects, such as decommissioned satellites or spent upper rocket stages, is to use a chaser spacecraft connected to the debris object by an elastic tether, but the required technology is immature and there is a lack of flight experience. The inoperable satellite, Envisat, has been chosen as a representative object for controlled re-entry by performing several high thrust burns. The aim of this paper is to develop a control system for the deorbit phase of such a mission. Models of the spacecraft dynamics, the tether, and sensors are developed to create a simulator. Two different tether models are considered: the massless model and the lumped mass model. A switched linear-quadratic-Gaussian (LQG) controller is designed to control the relative position of the debris object, and a switched proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controller is designed for attitude control. Feedforward compensation is used to counteract the couplings between relative position and attitude dynamics. An analysis of the system suggests that the tether should be designed in regard to the control system and it is found that the lumped mass model comes with higher cost than reward compared to the massless tether model in this case. Simulations show that the control system is able to control the system under the influence of modeling errors during a multi-burn deorbit strategy and even though more extensive models are suggested to enable assessment of the feasibility to perform this mission in reality, this study has resulted in extensive knowledge and valuable progress in the technical development.
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