Dynamics Of Reconfigurable Multibody Space Systems Connected By Magnetic Flux Pinning
Many future space systems, from solar power collection satellites to sparseaperture telescopes, will involve large-scale space structures which must be launched in a modular fashion. Currently, assembling modular structures in orbit is a challenging problem in multi-vehicle control or human-vehicle interaction. Some novel approaches to assembling modular space structures or formation-flying space systems involve augmenting the system dynamics with non-contacting force fields such as electromagnetic interactions. However, familiar divergenceless forces are subject to Earnshaw's Theorem and require active control in 6 DOF for stability. This study proposes an approach to modular spacecraft assembly based on the passively stable physics of magnetic flux pinning, an interaction between superconductors and magnetic fields which is not limited by Earnshaw's Theorem. Spacecraft modules linked by flux pinning passively fall into stable, many-degree-of-freedom basins of attraction in which flux pinning holds the modules together with stiffness and damping but no mechanical contact. This dissertation reports several system identification experiments that characterize the physical properties of flux pinning for spacecraft applications and identify avenues for design of flux-pinning space hardware. Once assembled in orbit, altering a spacecraft to effect repairs or adapt to new missions presents significant control challenges as well. Flux-pinning technology also offers exciting possibilities for new spacecraft-reconfiguration techniques, in which a spacecraft changes structure and function at the system level. Flux-pinned modular spacecraft can reconfigure in such a way that the passive physics of flux pinning and the space environment govern the low-level dynamics of a reconfiguration maneuver, instead of full-state feedback control. These reconfiguration maneuvers take the form of sequences of passively stable evolutions to equilibrium states, with joint kinematics between modules preventing collisions. This dissertation develops a theory for multibody spacecraft reconfiguration controllers that take a high-level, hybrid-systems approach in which a pre-computed graph structure stores all the reachable configurations that meet certain design-specified criteria. Edges of the graph carry mission-related weights so that a space system can optimize power consumption, robustness measures, or other performance metrics during a maneuver. These technologies and control strategies may provide opportunities for versatile space systems that can accomplish a wide variety of future missions.
space systems; multibody dynamics and control; magnetic flux pinning
Burns, Joseph Arthur; Kress Gazit, Hadas
Ph.D. of Aerospace Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis