Path Planning for Multiple Spacecraft Reconfiguration Maneuvers and Application to SPHERES onboard ISS by Georges Aoude

The research develops path planning algorithms for solving multi-spacecraft reconfiguration maneuvers. These maneuvers involve well-coordinated and highly coupled motions of the entire fleet of spacecraft while satisfying an arbitrary number of constraints. This problem is particularly difficult because of the nonlinearity of the attitude dynamics, the non-convexity of some of the constraints, and the coupling between the positions and attitudes of all spacecraft. As a result, the trajectory design must be solved as a single 6N DOF problem instead of N separate 6 DOF problems.

This research also involves performing reconfiguration maneuvers on the MIT Space Systems Lab SPHERES testbed onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Several reconfiguration maneuvers consisting of one, two and three SPHERES were designed using two different path planning developed in this resarch, and successfully performed onboard the ISS.

The image below (Courtesy of NASA) shows the U.S. astronaut and ISS Expedition-14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria observing two SPHERES performing a highly coupled reconfiguration maneuver onboard the ISS in March 2007 using an algorithm developed in this research.

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