Decentralized Spacecraft Formation Flight

The objective of this research is the development of control mechanisms for spacecraft formation flight with minimal information transfer between spacecraft.

The problem is applicable to several spacecraft missions and architectures, including coupled propulsion systems, like electromagnetic formation flight under different dynamics regimes in Low Earth Orbits or Deep Space applications. 

The specific case of cyclic topologies allows for interesting convergence properties. The properties cyclic topologies have been recently studied in the context of ground robots. The application of these mechanisms to the spacecraft formation flight problem is a natural extension that agreeably addresses important characteristics of the problem and adds valuable features which can be exploited.

Global convergence properties to a variety of formations, including circular, spiral and elliptical formations which are of prominent relevance in the formation flight applications context have been proved and additional features of this control laws are exploited to achieve a variety of results.

Experimental results of implementing these control algorithms in microgravity environment using the SPHERES testbed on board the International Space Station have proven the versatility and valuable properties of the algorithms.