Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Kirk W. Johnson, PhD


As CubeSat formation flying missions relying on differential drag control become increasingly common, additional missions based on this control must be studied. A mission planning tool is investigated to control the relative spacing of a CubeSat formation where differential drag is the sole control mechanism. System performance is investigated under varying perturbations and a range of system parameters, including limiting the control duty cycle. Optimal solutions based on using a pseudo spectral numerical solver, GPOPS-II, to minimize maneuver time. This study includes the development of a mission planning tool to work with the modeled CubeSat mission to calculate optimal maneuvers for its mission architecture. The effects of mission altitude, solar cycle, various maneuver sizes and formations, limited control, various computational methods, and error checkers were evaluated. The mission planning tool developed can properly execute all desired run parameters and options, though it suffers from computational complexity. Pseudo spectral methods executed in MatLab were determined to be poorly suited to the problem due to memory requirements involved. Limited duty cycle control can be applied with differential drag with varying effectiveness dependent on mission parameters.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number



AFIT designator mis-typed on cover