Co-design of strain-actuated solar arrays for spacecraft precision pointing and Jitter reduction

Christian M. Chilan, Daniel R. Herber, Yashwanth Kumar Nakka, Soon Jo Chung, James T. Allison, Jack B. Aldrich, Oscar S. Alvarez-Salazar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This work presents a novel spacecraft attitude control architecture using strain-actuated solar arrays that does not require the use of conventional attitude control hardware. A strain-actuated solar array enables attitude slewing maneuvers and precision pointing (image acquisition) stares, while simultaneously suppressing structural vibrations. Distributed piezoelectric actuators help achieve higher precision, higher bandwidth, and quieter operation than reaction wheels. To understand the design tradeoffs for this architecture, a framework for the integrated design of distributed structural geometry and distributed control is presented. The physical properties of the array are modeled and designed with respect to a piecewise linear distributed thickness profile. The distributed control is a voltage profile across the array modeled as a spatially continuous function. The dynamics of the system are modeled using a coupled ordinary differential equation-partial differential equation system using extended generalizations for hybrid coordinate systems. The combined physical and control system design, or co-design problem is investigated to understand the optimal performance of the system. Single-axis slew maneuvers of 7.2 milliradians or 1485 arcsec are achieved for a representative spacecraft model without increasing array mass or reducing array planform area. From additional tradeoff studies, a design criteria is revealed for the array structure and control strategy based on the optimal design tradeoff between large array inertia and fast structural dynamics. Moreover, the fundamental limits on strain-actuated solar arrays slew angle magnitude are demonstrated using an intuitive pseudorigid body dynamic model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3180-3195
Number of pages16
JournalAIAA journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering


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