Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Kirk Johnson, PhD.


This thesis presents algorithms for spacecraft formation flying using impulsive thrust and low-thrust methods. The general circular orbit formation initial conditions are derived in terms of equinoctial elements. Physical significance of the bounded relative motion parameters is presented for the case of general circular orbits. The developed algorithms are posed in terms of equinoctial elements for a singularity-free approach. The algorithms are assessed by numerical propagation of the inertial equations of motion with J2 and drag perturbations. Methods are presented for minimizing the ΔV required for formation initialization. An examination of the performance of open-loop and closed-loop control is provided for formation initialization and reconfiguration. The effects of differential drag on small satellite formations is analyzed. The developed algorithms are used to examine the trade space and quantify how spacecraft design parameters affect formation flying scenarios.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number