Inspection of a co-orbital solar sail using a microthruster attitude control system

Brunskill, C. and Palmer, P. – The use of a solar sail allows a spacecraft to generate thrust at no expense of propellant. However, there is little data to quantify the effect of sail structure on thrust performance. The InspectorSat mission will use a microsatellite to autonomously perform close proximity manoeuvres to inspect a co-orbital solar sail. Using a novel microelectromechanical thruster for precision orbital and attitude control and a simple monocular imaging sensor for inspection, the InspectorSat will observe sail deployment, surface features and record measurements of solar radiation pressure. This work, therefore, reflects the mission analysis inputs to the PRECISE micro-chemical propulsion system development, demonstrating the utility of a microscopic, low impulse thruster for the actuation micro- and nanosatellite platforms. Simulation results are used to determine thruster performance and Δv requirements for deployment, rendezvous and inspection. The proposed inspection schemes are designed to allow the inspector to take advantage of multiple observation opportunities. The results of this study provide a comprehensive analysis of the manoeuvring requirements of a small inspector satellite in close proximity to a passive observation target. As such, the analysis demonstrates the practicality of the micro-chemical propulsion system for inspection manoeuvres.

Inspection of a co-orbital solar sail using a microthruster attitude control system

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