Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

William E. Wiesel, PhD


Attitude control is a requirement for most satellites. Many schemes have been devised over the years including control moment gyros, reaction wheels, spin stabilization and gravity gradient stabilization. For low Earth orbits, the Earth's atmosphere can have an affect on a satellite's orbit and attitude. This research effort examines the feasibility of using the atmosphere to actively control a spacecraft's attitude using drag panels. Using the atmosphere to control spacecraft attitude has been researched in the past however very little research has been done using an active feedback control system to maintain spacecraft attitude. A linear computer model was created using a proportional controller. This model was used to evaluate the effectiveness of using drag panels for attitude control. Results from the simulation show that the spacecraft can recover from disturbance torques that may cause a change in attitude very effectively especially at low altitudes (200-300km). Settling time increases as altitude increases and varies from minutes to weeks.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number


Included in

Astrodynamics Commons