Date of Award

Spring 2008

Project Type


Program or Major

Mechanical Engineering

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

May-Win L Thein


With the ever more demanding goals of space exploration and research comes the need for more complex mission planning. Part of this complexity manifests itself in a satellite's orbit specifications. An increasing number of explorer missions call for a group of satellites to maneuver while arranged in a tightly controlled formation, or constellation. In order to maintain these constellations at immense distances from Earth, engineers must rely on feedback systems within the satellites' hardware. Controllers are created to manipulate the actuators, such as thrusters, and are therefore responsible for the economical use of fuel; overusing fuel can reduce a satellite's useful lifetime. It is necessary to achieve all controller demands while monitoring fuel consumption when developing a system such as the one presented by this thesis.

This thesis presents a detailed method of obtaining a simplified model of a spin-stabilized spacecraft and its environment, including relevant uncertainties, disturbances and sensor models. This thesis shows through rigorous simulations that it is feasible to control orbit maneuvers of spin-stabilized spacecraft to very strict specifications, despite the inclusion of sensor noise, thruster disturbance and bias, and nutation effects.