Cubesat solar sail 3-axis stabilization using panel translation and magnetic torquing
A Cubesat mission with a deployable solar sail of 5 meter by 5 meter in a sun-synchronous low earth orbit is analyzed to demonstrate solar sailing using active attitude stabilization of the sail panel. The sail panel is kept parallel to the orbital plane to minimize aerodynamic drag and optimize the orbit inclination change caused by the solar pressure force normal to the sail surface. A practical control system is proposed, using a combination of small 2-dimensional translation of the sail panel and 3-axis magnetic torquing which is proved to have sufficient control authority over the gravity gradient and aerodynamic disturbance torques. Miniaturized CMOS cameras are used as sun and nadir vector attitude sensors and a robust Kalman filter is used to accurately estimate the inertially referenced body rates from only the sun vector measurements. It is shown through realistic simulation tests that the proposed control system, although inactive during eclipse, will be able to stabilize the sail panel to within ±2° in all attitude angles during the sunlit part of the orbit, when solar sailing is possible. © 2010 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.