ESA GNC Conference Papers Repository
Application of Micro-Thrusters for Space Observatory Precision Attitude Control
This paper describes the results of a NASA investigation into the benefits of micro-thrusters compared to reaction wheels on future observatory-class missions with tight pointing stability requirements. Pointing repeatability and stability (i.e., jitter) requirements are key for space telescope missions of the future. For example, managing jitter is essential to being able to ?image? planets orbiting distant stars. Jitter requirements for missions in this class are difficult to meet with current reaction wheel-based architectures. The reaction wheels are typically the largest pointing disturbance on the spacecraft. Disturbances from reaction wheels can be mitigated, typically by mechanically isolating the wheels, which imposes system complexity and cost. Thrusters capable of thrust forces in the micronewton (?N) range (referred to as micro-thrusters or micronewton thrusters) have been developed to support the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission, which requires drag-free control to place a test mass in near-perfect free-fall Beyond the drag-free control application, micro-thrusters could be used as a substitute for reaction wheels or as a supplement to wheels for fine pointing control. Used in this fashion, micro-thrusters have potential for reducing the cost and technical risks of achieving demanding pointing stability performance on observatory-class missions.