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Journal of Control Science and Engineering
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 657182, 15 pages
Research Article

Design of Attitude Control Systems for CubeSat-Class Nanosatellite

Department of Earth & Space Science and Engineering, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3, Canada

Received 18 December 2012; Accepted 24 April 2013

Academic Editor: Sabri Cetinkunt

Copyright © 2013 Junquan Li 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.


We present a satellite attitude control system design using low-cost hardware and software for a 1U CubeSat. The attitude control system architecture is a crucial subsystem for any satellite mission since precise pointing is often required to meet mission objectives. The accuracy and precision requirements are even more challenging for small satellites where limited volume, mass, and power are available for the attitude control system hardware. In this proposed embedded attitude control system design for a 1U CubeSat, pointing is obtained through a two-stage approach involving coarse and fine control modes. Fine control is achieved through the use of three reaction wheels or three magnetorquers and one reaction wheel along the pitch axis. Significant design work has been conducted to realize the proposed architecture. In this paper, we present an overview of the embedded attitude control system design; the verification results from numerical simulation studies to demonstrate the performance of a CubeSat-class nanosatellite; and a series of air-bearing verification tests on nanosatellite attitude control system hardware that compares the performance of the proposed nonlinear controller with a proportional-integral-derivative controller.