Research in Engineering and Aviation

Fault Tolerant Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking Architecture for Spacecraft in Presence of Control Actuator Failures


Author(s): S. Jayaram

Journal: International Journal of Intelligent Unmanned Systems, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp. 5-20, 2013. DOI: 10.1108/20496421311298116 


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present novel robust fault tolerant control design architecture to detect and isolate spacecraft attitude control actuators and reconfigure to redundant backups to improve the practicality of actuator fault detection.

Design/methodology/approach – The Robust Fault Tolerant Control is designed for spacecraft Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking (AR&D) using Lyapunov direct approach applied to non-linear model. An extended Kalman observer is used to accurately estimate the state of the attitude control actuators. Actuators on all three axes (roll/pitch/yaw) sequentially fail one after another and the robust fault tolerant controller acts to reconfigure to redundant backups to stabilize the spacecrafts and complete the required maneuver.

Findings – In the simulations, the roll, pitch and yaw dynamics of the spacecraft are considered and the attitude control actuators failures are detected and isolated. Furthermore, by switching to redundant backups, the guarantee of overall stability performance is demonstrated.

Research limitations/implications – A real time actuator failure detection and reconfiguration process using robust fault tolerant control is applied for spacecraft AR&D maneuvers. Finding an appropriate Lyapunov function for the non-linear dynamics is not easy and always challenging. Failure of actuators on all three axes at the same time is not considered. It is a very useful approach to solve self-assembly problems in space, spacecraft proximity maneuvers as well as co-operative control of planetary vehicles in presence of actuator failures.

Originality/value – An approach has been proposed to detect, isolate and reconfigure spacecraft actuator failures occurred in the spacecraft attitude control system. A Robust Fault Tolerant Control scheme has been developed for the nonlinear AR&D maneuver for two spacecrafts. Failures that affect the control performance characteristics are considered and overall performance is guaranteed even in presence of control actuator failures. The architecture is demonstrated through model-based simulation.