Spacecraft formation flying control design for the orion mission

Andrew Robertson, Gokhan Inalhan, Jonathan P. How

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Formation flying of multiple spacecraft is an enabling technology for many future space science missions. However, the coordination and control of such instruments present many design challenges. This paper addresses the formation flying spacecraft control problem at several levels. We present low-level, multi-vehicle, station keeping algorithms and a control architecture to keep the vehicles aligned in formation. We also present a high-level fleet planner that creates trajectories (e. g: to re-size or re-target the formation) and takes into account the limited fuel onboard each vehicle. A coordinator is introduced at the highest-level to ensure that vehicle resources are expended equally within the fleet. Algorithms are discussed for each level, with simulations to compare performance. The simulation results are then verified on a formation flying testbed. The control design is then discussed with a perspective on the upcoming Orion mission.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes
EventGuidance, Navigation, and Control Conference and Exhibit, 1999 - Portland, United States
Duration: 9 Aug 199911 Aug 1999


ConferenceGuidance, Navigation, and Control Conference and Exhibit, 1999
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 1999 by the American Institute pi Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. All rights reserved.


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