A distributed flight software design for satellite formation flying control

Joseph B. Mueller, Margarita Brito

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Scopus citations


Several NASA and DoD missions are envisioned that will utilize distributed, autonomous clusters of spacecraft. The Air Force Research Laboratory initiated the TechSat 21 mission to demonstrate the key enabling technologies of formation flying and distributed radar. Princeton Satellite Systems developed the Formation Flying Module (FFM) for TechSat 21 to provide autonomous reconfiguration, formation keeping, and collision avoidance capabilities to the three-satellite cluster. The process of developing flight software for such a distributed system has brought to light significant design challenges. Examples include developing a clusterlevel fault management plan, designing an autonomous control system which respects the various constraints imposed by the spacecraft design, and defining a sensible ground command interface to the cluster. These challenges are likely to remain important issues for future missions, especially as the complexity and size of the cluster grows. This paper presents an overview of the FFM design along with the motivations and challenges associated with the design process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA Space 2003 Conference and Exposition
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003
EventAIAA Space 2003 Conference and Exposition - Long Beach, CA, United States
Duration: Sep 23 2003Sep 25 2003

Publication series

NameAIAA Space 2003 Conference and Exposition


OtherAIAA Space 2003 Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLong Beach, CA


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