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Proceedingsof the 2002 IEEE International

Conference on Control Applications

September 18-20,2002* Glasgow, Scotland, U.K.

Drag-Free Motion Control of Satellite for High-Precision

Gravity Field Mapping
Bent Ziegler, Mogens Blanke
Technical University of Denmark, BrstedeDTU, Automation, Building 326, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark
Tel: +45 4525 3547, +45 4525 3565, Fax: f45 4588 1295, +mail:,

Abstract Assessment of small anomalies in the gravity field is

accomplished using a three-axis gradiometer. Differ-
High precision mapping of the geoid and the Earth’s ences in acceleration of the satellite and electrostatic
gravity field are of importance to a wide range of suspended masses within the gradiometer are caused
ongoing studies in areas like ocean circulation, solid by disturbances on the satellite from external forces
Earth physics and ice sheet dynamics. Using a satel- like air drag, and this must be compensated for.
lite in orbit around the Earth gives the opportunity
The objective of this study has been the design of a
to map the Earth’s gravity field in 3 dimensions with
control system that suppresses disturbances from en-
much better accuracy and spatial resolution than ever
accomplished. To reach the desired quality of mea- vironment well enough to meet the scientific require-
ments for the mission. This shall be done in the pres-
surements, the satellite must fly in a low Earth or-
bit where disturbances from atmospheric drag and the ence of disturbances from actuators and measurement
noise. Requirements are given in terms of specifica-
Earth’s magnetic field will perturb the satellite’s mo-
tions for rotational and translational accelerations of
tion. These effects will compromise measurement ac-
the satellite. The actuator system used for all 6 de-
curacy, unless they are accurately compensated by on-
grees of freedom is a combination of an ion thruster
board thrusters. The paper concerns the design of a
and eight cold gas thrusters.
control system to performing such delicate drag com-
pensation. A six degrees-of-freedom model for the The paper gives a short introduction to the mission
satellite is developed with the model including dynam- and presents performance specifications for the control
ics of the satellite, sensors, actuators and environmen- system. The satellite is modelled with measurement-
tal disturbances to the required micro-Newton accu- and actuator systems. The essentials of main distur-
racy. A control system is designed to compensate the bances are analysed and the problem is formulated as
non-gravitational disturbances on the satellite in three an R, control problem, using the requirements as per-
axes using an H, design. Performance is validated formance and sensitivity specifications. A control sys-
against mission requirements. tem for drag compensation is designed, and controller
performance is discussed [l].
Keywords: Spacecraft Attitude and Orbit Control,
Drag Compensation, Drag-free motion.

1 Introduction
2 Satellite Orbit and Performance
High precision gravity field mapping promise new in-
sight in solid Earth physics, oceanography, ice sheet
dynamics, geodesy and observation of possible sea level
changes caused by global warming. The European The orbit chosen for this mission is a near-polar sun
Space Agency has planned a satellite dedicated for synchronous circular low Earth orbit with an altitude
this purpose: Gravity field and Ocean Circulation Ex- of 250 km and an inclination i of 96.5”.
plorer (GOCE). The mission depends on accurate com-
pensation of drag effects, referred to as drag-free mo- The low orbit increase influence from gravity anomalies
tion control. The quality of the measurements are ex- on the satellite motion but also cause an increment
pected to yield results with high accuracy: 4 mE for in the disturbance from the environment. In order to
3-dimensional rate of gravity and 1 cm for the geoid be able to accomplish scientific measurements of the
with a spatial resolution of 100 km. The GOCE satel- desired quality the satellite accelerations should be kept
lite is expected to be launched in 2006 [2]. below the specifications in Table 1 and Table 2 [l].

0-7803-7386-31021$17.00 02002 IEEE 292

Parameter Symbol Value Unit
Parameter f < 5 mHz MBW f > 100 mHz Satellite mass m 808.7 kg
@4/dt2 1.10-" 2.4.10-' 1.10-6 Principal moments I, 97.1 Nms2
@O/dt2 1.10-6 2.4.10-' 1.10-6 of inertia Iy 966.9 Nms2
d21L,ldt2 1*10-6 2.4.10-' 1*10-6 I, 993.5 Nms2
Cross sectional SX 0.8 mz
areas S,, 10 m2
I si I 5 I m2
Parameter f < 5 mHz MBW f > 100 mHz
Drag- coefficient I C,j I 4.1438 I
Magnetic m, 4.60 AmZ
d2x/dt2 1.10-7 2.5-io-8 1.10-6 moment vector my -0.65 Am2
d2y/dt2 5*10-7 2.5-10-' 1~10-~ m, 1.85 Am2
d%ldt2 l.10-7 2.5-10-' 5~10-~ m
Center of pressure rgop,z 0
position for %oP,g 0 m
3 Satellite Modelling x-direction pressure rgop, 0 m
Center of pressure r$op,x -0.29 m
position for 4oP.v 0 m
The satellite has a long octagonal body with a small
and symmetric cross section perpendicular to the flight y-direction pressure r50p', 0 m
direction. This design is chosen in order t o reduce air Center of pressure rcop,, -0.49 m
drag and disturbances to the gradiometer. To secure position for %oP,y 0 m
atmospheric drag stability, a stabiliser is added to the z-direction pressure r&op, 0 m
satellite structure causing the center of pressure (COP)
to be located aft of the center of mass (CoM).
In order to model the spacecraft dynamics, it is nec-
The satellite will be considered as a rigid body rotating essary to add the influence from environmental distur-
with an angular velocity of one revolution per orbit. bances to the dynamic equations of motion. For an
The satellite x-axis will be pointing in the direction of orbit with an altitude of 250 km, the atmospheric drag
flight; the z-axis towards nadir and y will complete the is the most important disturbance but also a model the
orthogonal right hand system. At the chosen altitude influence from the Earth's magnetic field on the satel-
the angular velocity about y is wy = 0.00117 rad/s lite will be included.

The principal moments of inertia for the satellite are 3.1 Atmospheric drag
considered to coincide with the satellite body axes x, y The acceleration of a satellite in low earth orbit due t o
and z so the inertia tensor becomes a diagonal matrix. atmospheric drag can be written as [5]
Estimated physical parameters for the satellite can be
found in Table 3.

where p is the atmospheric density, S is the effective

surface normal to the velocity vector, m is the mass,
c d is the drag coefficient of the body and Vi,,
the velocity of the satellite relative to the atmosphere.
Expressions for the dynamic equations of motion for a Rewriting Eq. 4 gives the force acting on the satellite
rigid body in a rotating frame are
I - = N - w x (Iw) The atmospheric density for an orbit at the altitude
of 250 km is calculated using the atmosphere model
for rotational motion where w denotes angular velocity MSISE9O with input shown in Table 4. This yields
and N denotes the torque acting on the satellite. For the atmospheric density shown in Figure 1.
translational motion
dw F
- = -2w x w +-
dt m (3)
Flo.7(previous day) 140.10-22Jm-2 '
when small higher order terms are neglected. Here w is Flo,7(3-month average) 140.10-22Jm-2
translational velocity and F is force. Ap 15 n T

where rcop is the vector from CoM to COP (see Ta-
ble 3). The COP position differs for forces acting on
different spacecraft axes. Hence

0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 Due to the position of the COP'Srelative to the CoM,
Time lminl the atmospheric drag causes a restoring torque about
the spacecraft axes y and z.
Figure 1: Atmospheric density through 4 orbits at 250
km altitude
3.2 T h e Earth's Magnetic Field
Interaction between a magnetic moment in the space-
The velocity relative to the atmosphere is a function craft and the Earth's magnetic field causes a torque on
of the absolute velocity of the satellite, V',the angu- the spacecraft
lar velocity of the atmosphere, watm, and the radius NB=mBXB (15)
vector, R, from the Earth center to the satellite.
m B is the magnetic moment of the spacecraft and B is
V;,, = V' - W a t m x R (6) the Earth's magnetic field intensity at the spacecraft's
position. Different models exist for the Earth magnetic
Assuming the angular velocity of the atmosphere as of field and a tilted dipole model, deviating from the Za-
the Earth and taking into account the inclination of direction by 17", has sufficient accuracy [4].This model
the orbit, i, the velocity of the satellite relativeAto the describes the components of the magnetic field as
atmosphere can be expressed as

Vbtm =
V - Rwe cosi
Rwe sin i cos(w0t) ] (7)
cos(wot - v m ) sin([,)

Vltm M [ -Rwecosi
V o (8) where
where w e is the angular velocity of the Earth about its
axis [5]. The speed of the spacecraft, V , is derived from 0 A is the rotation matrix from Eq. 11
the gravitation constant of Earth, p e , and the distance 0 me is the Earth magnetic dipole strength.
from the geocenter to the spacecraft as
0 R is the distance from the center of the Earth.
0 wot is the angle from the ascending node to current
spacecraft position.
The approximation in Eq. 8 follows from assuming
0 vm is a phase angle measured from the ascending
V - RUB cos i >> Rwe sin i cos(w0t) (10) node of the orbit relative to the geographic equator
Angular errors should be taken into account when find- to the ascending node of the orbit relative to the
ing the force acting on the satellite. This is done by geomagnetic equator.
applying the following rotation matrix to V;,, tmis the instantaneous inclination of the orbit
A= [ -;1cI
] (11)
plane to the geomagnetic equator.

Both qm and tmare time varying but as the orbit pe-

riod for the spacecraft is much smaller than of the rota-
where rotations are 4 about x, 0 about y and II, about tion of Earth, these variables are considered constant.
z. The force acting on the satellite is then
The range for ,e, is i f 17" and, for a near polar orbit,
the range for qm can be approximated to f17".

The dynamic equations of motion Eq. 2 and Eq. 3 can

Because the COP is located at a distance to CoM, this
now be written as
will cause a torque on the spacecraft
Nawo = rcop x Faem (13) dt
I - = -W x ( I O ) NaeT, N B N , + +

dv 1 1
-- - 2 x~ v + -Fa,,,
+ -Fc
m (18)
where N , and F , denote torque and the force supplied
by the propulsion system.

3.3 Propulsion System

The propulsion system used for applying torques and
forces on the satellite consists of a combination of a
single ion thruster and eight cold gas thrusters. The
ion thruster compensates for atmospheric drag in the
direction of flight (z), which is the strongest pertur-
bation on the satellite motion. The cold gas thrusters
that control the remaining five degrees of freedom are
placed as shown on Figure 2. The thrusters are num-
bered from 1 to 8 and their respective thrust vectors
are shown as arrows on the figure. This combination of
ion and cold gas thrusters yield the noise profiles shown
in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Noise profiles for torques and forces applied to

the satellite

3.4 Gradiometer
For measuring satellite accelerations a gradiometer is
used. This consists of six accelerometers in configura-
tion that each can measure linear accelerations along
three nominally orthogonal axes. From these measure-
ments the satellite accelerations along 6 degrees of free-
dom are derived. The accelerometers are based on elec-
trostatic suspension of proof masses adding second or-
Figure 2: Cold gas thruster configuration der dynamics to the measurements [l]. Measurement
bandwidth is 1 Hz,damping coefficient is 0.7 and the
steady state gain is 1. Gradiometer noise is considered
The thrusters show a second order behaviour with as white noise with the following spectral densities for
a bandwidth of 20 Hz and a damping coefficient of rotational and translational acceleration
0.7. This gives the following relationship between com-
manded and obtained control signal about an axis i

Xth = -176 0
mz+ 15:1][ (ui,c +vi)
Acceleration along any axis i is thus measured as
Here ~ i is ,the~ commanded control signal, ui is the
obtained control signal and vi is the noise from the Xgm =
-8.8 -39.5
] x9m
[ 39d5 ] ai
thrusters. The reason for the non-linearity at low fre- +

quencies in the noise profile for F2/is that the ion ai,m = [o 1 ]Xgn+wi (22)
thruster is canted by an angle of 2.8" with respect to
the y-axis to allow for a redundant ion thruster. There- where ai,m is the measured acceleration, ai is the true
fore a component of the ion thrust is directed towards acceleration and 2ui is the sensor noise with the spectral
y influencing noise profile. density from Eq. 20 or Eq. 21.

4 Control System Design

A control system is designed that keeps the acceler-

ations of the satellite below the performance require-
ments from Table 2 and Table 1. For this purpose a
set of continuous &,-controllers are used. Keeping in
mind that the system probably should be discretised at
a later point the bandwidth of the controllers will be U V
considered a restriction of the controller design.

The dynamic equations for translational motion Eq. 18

reveal a cross-coupling from rotation of the spacecraft Figure 4: Setup used for control system synthesis
to translational motion. This cross-coupling is coun-
teracted by a feed-forward term added to the control
force F, giving is the weighted force and torque supplied by the con-
trol system and z2 is the weighted output for satellite
F, = Fc-2m(wxv) (23) acceleration. v is measured acceleration and U is con-
trol signal. In order to suppress acceleration noise at
dv 1 1
- = -F,,,, ;F,
dt m
+ (24) the desired frequencies it has proved sufficient only to
include dynamics in the weight W , while Wgm,Wth
This enables the separation of control systems for ro- and W , are constant matrices.
tational and translational motion.
The following three weight matrices are used for both
Control system inputs will be based on raw measure- control systems
ments from the gradiometer. The noise from this device
is much lower than the acceleration noise caused by the
thrusters and the advantages of including a Kalman fil-
ter for state estimation are thus negligible.

Influence from atmospheric drag and magnetic field on

w, = (. + +
O.l(s 10.2742
20.10-3 . 2 4 2 '13x3 (27)
satellite dynamics depend on the parameters p , wot, cm while the weights Wth for rotational and translational
and.,77 The control system is therefore designed for motion are
the parameter combination where angular errors have
the largest effect on satellite dynamics.
Wth,, = 150

Table 5: Worst case parameter Val ies

Parameter Value
7.28-10- kg/m

79.5" W,, is chosen as the intensity of the gradiometer noise

7, while the Wth values are scaled according to the low
frequency intensity of the noise from the propulsion
system. W , is chosen low to allow a certain noise
4.1 Setup for Controller Design on the control signal, while acceleration noise is sup-
The gradiometer bandwidth of 1 Hz is only ten times pressed heavily by the W, function. This suppression
higher than the upper limit of MBW so the gradiome- is harder at lower frequencies where propulsion noise is
ter dynamics (Eq. 22) is included in the model. The strong but falls off when approaching the upper limit
thruster dynamics (Eq. 19) with a bandwidth of 20 H a for the MBW.
is neglected for controller synthesis but used for later
validation. 4.2 Control System Analysis
Design using the setup above results in stabilising con-
The configuration for R,-controller synthesis is shown trollers for rotational and translational motion of 18th
on Figure 4. This setup applies to controllers for both and 14th order, respectively, before controller model
rotational and translational motion. G contains satel- reduction. The controller for rotational motion has
lite dynamics, Gm contains the gradiometer, K is the natural modes of up to 35 rad/s, while those for the
controller and Wgm, Wth, w, and w,are weight translational control motion are below 25 rad/s. These
functions. Noise from measurements and propulsion natural modes cause the minimum sampling frequency
system are represented by w1 and w2. The output z1 for the system to be 11.1 Hz.

To validate control system performance propulsion dy- 5 Conclusions and Further Work
namics is included in the system. It is noted that this
amendment does not affect system stability. Noise with A six-degree-of-freedom model for a satellite in low
the spectral profile shown in Figure 3 is then applied Earth orbit was derived. The model included propul-
and the resulting acceleration noise plotted in Figure 5 sion, measurement systems, environmental distur-
against the requirements. bances from atmospheric drag and the Earth's mag-
netic field. The effects on satellite dynamics were in-
cluded. The satellite itself was considered a rigid body.
'Od 5 Requirements
A continuous-time control system for drag compensa-
tion was designed for the satellite, treating the rota-
tional and translational motions separately.

A setup for F
',I controller synthesis was described and
the designed controllers provided stability and suffi-
cient performance for both control systems. The min-
imum margin was found for translational acceleration
along the x-axis where the noise spectrum reached 25
% of its upper limit [6].


The results described in this paper were mainly ob-

............................................. tained during B. Ziegler's 6 months visit (stagiere) t o
e-lo6 ;.................... ....................................
N '
the European Space Agency, ESA, at the Technology
N$10-7 .............
i 1. ,
Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands. The support from
ESA and the inspiration from Dr. M. Sallusti are grate-
's :...................... /

fully appreciated.
' ,.-.-..>J!) '\,:
.?, .
.. - .....
.' ,.'.:
, . .....

S p .... '.*
............. 'x.\.
z -10

[l] ESA, The Four Candidate Earth Explorer Core

Missions - Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Cir-
10" 1oa 10" 1o2
1 culations, ESA Publications Division, 1999.
Frequency [Hz]
[2] Website:,
June 11th 2002.
Figure 5: Acceleration spectra for rotational and transla-
tional motion [3] Wertz, J. R., editor, Spacecraft Attitude Deter-
mination and Control, D. Reidel Publishing Company,
edition 6, 1991.
Requirements are seen t o be met for both rotational [4] Sidi, M. J., Spacecraft Dynamics & Control,
and translational accelerations with comfortable mar- Cambridge University Press, 1997.
gin. In rotational acceleration the spectra reach a max- [5] Carrou, J., editor, Spaceflight Dynamics,
imum of 2 % of the limit in the MBW. In translational Cepadues-Editions, 1st edition, 1995.
accelerations the noise reaches 25 % for z-axis accel-
eration at 0.1 Hz, while accelerations along y and z [6] Ziegler, B., Modelling and Control System De-
reach their maximum of 2 % of the limit at the same sign for the ESA Satellite GOCE, Thesis at Techni-
frequency. cal University of Denmark, Brsted-DTU, Automation,
Lyngby, Denmark, 2001
If the requirements for noise rejection on any axis was
to be tightened, a trade-off could be made in the design
between noise suppression and control system band-
width. A faster controller could keep the acceleration
noise at a lower level by increasing the drop-off fre-
quency but would also increase the minimum sampling
frequency €or the system. With the margins obtained,
the high order of the controllers is easily reduced.