A Strategy for Multiple Cooperative Spacecraft to Control the Translational Velocity of a Shared Payload
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The scale of payloads that can be moved in space is effectively dictated by the propellant storage, maximum thrust, and thrust efficiency of the upper-stages on modern launch vehicles. These vehicles must control the payload at a single attachment point which leads to restrictive mass and symmetry constraints for the payload design. The research presented here examines an alternative strategy for performing velocity control on large payloads, such as future orbital construction projects and captured asteroids. Starting from a robotic manipulator perspective, an approach is developed to grasp, orient, and translate the payload with multiple cooperative spacecraft that are already in orbit. The approach makes use of a new combinatorial optimization algorithm, path planning with a three-dimensional visibility graph road-map method, and constrained model predictive control. All elements of the strategy are tested in multiple MATLAB simulations.