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International Journal of Aerospace Engineering
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 308245, 18 pages
Research Article

Guidance Navigation and Control for Autonomous Multiple Spacecraft Assembly: Analysis and Experimentation

1Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Nuclear Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, USA
2Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Space Systems Academic Group, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA 93943-5100, USA
3Dipartimento di Ingegneria Aerospaziale e Astronautica, Scuola di Ingegneria Aerospaziale, Universitá di Roma “La Sapienza”, 00138 Roma, Italy
4Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA 93943-5100, USA
5Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA

Received 31 August 2010; Revised 22 October 2010; Accepted 23 December 2010

Academic Editor: Giampiero Campa

Copyright © 2011 Riccardo Bevilacqua et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This work introduces theoretical developments and experimental verification for Guidance, Navigation, and Control of autonomous multiple spacecraft assembly. We here address the in-plane orbital assembly case, where two translational and one rotational degrees of freedom are considered. Each spacecraft involved in the assembly is both chaser and target at the same time. The guidance and control strategies are LQR-based, designed to take into account the evolving shape and mass properties of the assembling spacecraft. Each spacecraft runs symmetric algorithms. The relative navigation is based on augmenting the target's state vector by introducing, as extra state components, the target's control inputs. By using the proposed navigation method, a chaser spacecraft can estimate the relative position, the attitude and the control inputs of a target spacecraft, flying in its proximity. The proposed approaches are successfully validated via hardware-in-the-loop experimentation, using four autonomous three-degree-of-freedom robotic spacecraft simulators, floating on a flat floor.