Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Marco Ciarcia


Advances in space technology and interest toward remote sensing mission have grown in the recent years, requiring the attitude control subsystems of observation satellites to increase their performances in terms of pointing accuracy and on-board implementability. Moreover, an increased interest in small satellite missions and the recent technological developments related to the CubeSats standard have drastically reduced the cost of producing and flying a satellite mission. In this context, the proposed research aims to improve the state of the art for satellite attitude control methodologies by proposing a near-optimal attitude control strategy, simulated in a high-fidelity environment. Two strategies are presented, both are based on the implementation of a direct method, the Inverse Dynamics in the Virtual Domain (IDVD), and a nonlinear programming solver, the Sequential Gradient-Restoration Algorithm (SGRA). The IDVD allows the transcription of the original optimal control problem into an equivalent nonlinear programming problem. SGRA is adopted for the quick determination of near-optimal attitude trajectories. The two optimization criteria considered are the target acquisition time and the maneuver energy associated to the actuation torques. In addition, the development and initial testing of a satellite attitude simulator testbed for on-ground experimentation of attitude, determination, and control methodologies is proposed. The Suspended Satellite Three-Axis Rotation Testbed (START) is a novel low-cost satellite three-axis attitude simulator testbed, it is located at the Aerospace Robotics Testbed Laboratory (ARTLAB). START is mainly composed by a 3D printed base, a single-board computer, a set of actuators, and an electric battery. The suspension system is based on three thin high tensile strength wires allowing a three degrees-of freedom rotation range comparable to the one of air bearing-based floating testbeds, and minimal resistive torque in all the rotations axis. This set up will enable the hardware in-the-loop experimentation of attitude guidance navigation and control strategies. Finally, a set of guidelines to select a solver for the solution of nonlinear programming problems is proposed. With this in mind, a comparison of the convergence performances of commonly used solvers for both unconstrained and constrained nonlinear programming problems is presented. The terms of comparison involve accuracy, convergence rate, and convergence speed. Because of its popularity among research teams in academia and industry, MATLAB is used as common implementation platform for the solvers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Artificial satellites -- Attitude control systems.

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright