Purdue University Graduate School
Effects_of_Perturbations_on_the_Orbital_and_Attitude_Motion_of_Drag_Sails.pdf (17.76 MB)

Effects of Perturbations on the Orbital and Attitude Motion of Drag Sails

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posted on 2021-07-23, 19:31 authored by Juan Camilo MaldonadoJuan Camilo Maldonado
With the increasing frequency of satellite launches and proposed constellations for Earth observation and communications, the number of objects in orbit is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades. This trend brings to question the current orbital debris problem, which will continue to worsen if proper deorbit guidelines are not met for future satellites. Currently, the primary system that is utilized for deorbiting is a propulsion system that performs a maneuver at the end of mission and delivers the satellite on an orbit that satisfies deorbit guidelines. However, this method suffers from reliability concerns since it requires that the host spacecraft be operational to perform the maneuver and it also significantly increases the cost and complexity of the satellite if a propulsion system is not already being used for the mission. These issues with complexity, cost, and robustness could potentially be solved by a different class of deorbiting system, a drag sail.

In this thesis, the effects of perturbations on the orbital and attitude motion of drag sails are analyzed in order to extend the current understanding of drag sails as a deorbiting system. The perturbations considered in the orbit-attitude propagator are aerodynamic drag, solar radiation pressure, Earth oblateness effects, and gravity gradient torques. Different drag sail types, sail materials, deployment epochs, and deployment locations in Earth orbit are also considered in order to extend the analysis to different types of missions and to understand how these parameters influence the effects of the perturbations. Additionally, a self-shadowing algorithm and efficient implementation approach is developed in order to improve the fidelity of the aerodynamic drag and solar radiation pressure perturbations.


GEM PhD Fellowship and Purdue Doctoral Fellowship


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

David A. Spencer

Additional Committee Member 2

Alina Alexeenko

Additional Committee Member 3

Carolin E. Frueh

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