UCLA Extension

Spacecraft Dynamics and Control

Learn how to design a spacecraft or satellite attitude control system by exploring real spacecraft design and understanding modern practical design and analysis methods.

Although designed for practitioners, this course highlights the fundamental theory behind the design methods by presenting in detail, numerous modern real-life spacecraft attitude control design examples, such as Spaceway and Cassini, are illustrated in detail using the latest tools developed in MATLAB/SIMULINK.

Using the design methodologies and tools, participants learn to model spacecraft dynamics in detail, design basic spacecraft attitude control systems, and perform trade-off study on approaches, hardware, and performance requirements.

7 Major Areas Covered

  • Spacecraft Attitude Control Overview
  • Spacecraft Dynamics
  • Spacecraft Sensor/Actuator Dynamics and Modeling
  • Spacecraft Attitude Determination
  • Spacecraft Attitude Control
  • Spacecraft Payload Control
  • Design Case Studies

Course Materials

The text, Spacecraft Dynamics and Control: A Practical Engineering Approach, Marcel J. Sidi (Cambridge Aerospace Series, 1997); examples and demos; and published papers are distributed on the first day of the course. The notes are for participants only and are not for sale.

Coordinator and Lecturer

Richard Y. Chiang, PhD, Boeing Technical Fellow, Flight and Control Engineering Department, Space and Intelligence Systems, Boeing, El Segundo, California. Dr. Chiang is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in robust control system design and system identification. He is the leading author on the MATLAB software, Robust Control Toolbox, of which nearly 25,000 copies have been sold worldwide across industries and academia for the last 20 years. His control design methodology has become a universal standard in the field.

Dr. Chiang began his career 30 years ago as a control system analyst at Garrett AiResearch. During the 1990s, he also worked for Northrop Aircraft on F-18 supermaneuver flight control and at JPL on large space structure vibration control. Since joining Boeing in the late ’90s, he has designed attitude control systems for 14 satellites and analyzed system stability for 18 programs. He has taught senior control courses at USC; given control seminars at DEC, Northrop, General Dynamics, and JPL in the 1990s and several at Boeing from 2002 to the present; and is an instructor of two other UCLA Extension courses on robust control and MATLAB analysis. Dr. Chiang also has published 17 journal papers and 28 conference papers, and has six issued U.S. patents and five patent applications pending related to spacecraft control system design. He is an Associate Fellow of AIAA and a Senior Member of IEEE.


Douglas J. Bender, PhD, Boeing Senior Technical Fellow, Flight and Control Engineering Department, Space and Intelligence Systems, Boeing, El Segundo, California. Dr. Bender has been with the Flight and Control Department of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems and its predecessor organizations since 1980. He has participated in and led numerous generations of space vehicle attitude control designs and projects. He has led numerous spacecraft anomaly recoveries and has been involved in the following Boeing spacecraft programs: spinning satellites (HS-376, Intelsat VI, Leasat); the momentum biased HS-601, Boeing’s first three-axis stabilized satellite with over 50 in orbit; TDRS HIJ, a crosslink satellite for NASA; the high-power Boeing 702 product line; and many others. Dr. Bender has over a dozen issued patents on spacecraft attitude control concepts and over a dozen published papers on control theory and applications. He is an Associate Fellow of AIAA.

Tom T. Tsao, PhD, Boeing Senior Specialist, Flight and Control Engineering Department, Space and Intelligence Systems, Boeing, El Segundo, California. Dr. Tsao is recognized at Boeing company level for his expertise in satellite attitude determination and control systems design. Since he joined Boeing 10 years ago, Dr. Tsao has been heavily involved in developing Boeing Stellar Inertial Attitude Determination (SIAD) technology using mixed gyro and Star Trackers. He has been involved in the development of the first Boeing SIAD algorithms used on Spaceway, and subsequently many others equipped with SIAD technology, including ODIN, GOES, N, R, DirecTV, and MSV. In 2008, Dr. Tsao invented the first gyroless SIAD attitude determination algorithm for MSV program. He is also supporting/supervising other Boeing sites, such as Huntington Beach and Seal Beach, on their SIAD-related project development. He is also a C/C++ simulation expert. Dr. Tsao developed the next-generation ACS simulation platform in 702B IRAD project with open-sim C/C++ capabilities. He supported two successful demos on this newly developed leading-edge simulation concept to GOES R and GPS III customers.

Course Outline

Spacecraft Attitude Control Overview

  • Spacecraft systems
  • What is a spacecraft attitude control system (ACS) and its functions?
  • Types of attitude control systems
  • Brief history of spacecraft ACS for the past 50 years
  • ACS design objectives
  • ACS control types
  • Disturbance torques: environmental, solar pressure, gravity gradient
  • ACS control and sensing hardware (functional overview)
  • ACS system engineering
    — Design requirements, momentum budget, pointing budget
  • ACS mode and fault autonomy
  • Geosynchronous spacecraft mission sequence of events
  • System theory basics
    — Vector/matrix, Laplace transform, transfer function, state-space
    — Z-transform, mapping between continuous and discrete time
    — Random process
  • Lab exercise
  • References

Spacecraft Dynamics Modeling

  • Euler angles, quaternions
  • Kinematics (nonlinear and linear)
  • Rigid body dynamics, including fundamental stability rules
  • Spinning body dynamics, including nutation, wobble, coning, dual-spin dynamics, and energy sink analyses
  • Linearized 3-axis dynamics
  • Flexible body dynamics
  • Representation of linear dynamics (in first- and second-order forms)
  • Modal analysis, model reduction
  • Dynamic modeling software tools
  • Examples: nonlinear and linear rigid, linear flexible, two body spring-mass, phenomenon of “pole-zero flipping,” full n-body models
  • Lab exercise
  • References

Spacecraft Attitude Determination


  • Basics
    — Estimation theory
    — Estimators: observers and Kalman filter theory and implementation
    — Advanced filtering techniques
    — Attitude representations and kinematics
  • Sensors hardware spec, dynamics and modeling
    — IRU: modeling, noise characteristics
    — Sun/earth sensor: modeling, accuracy, noise characteristics
    — Star tracker: modeling, noise characteristics
  • Spacecraft attitude determination
    — Attitude determination algorithms: TRIAD, Kalman filter, etc.
    — Stellar inertial attitude determination
    — GPS for attitude control: modeling, accuracy, time delay
    — Comparison: performance and error budget
  • Tools, GUI, examples
  • Lab exercise
  • References

Spacecraft Attitude Control (Chiang)

  • Basics
    — Classical loop shaping: PID, gain/phase stabilization
    — Control of sampled-data system
    — Robust control and uncertainty
    — Analysis methods, robustness, time delay, noise transmission
  • Actuators hardware spec, dynamics and modeling
    — RWA, CMG
    — Thrusters, optimal jet selection
    — Magnetic torquer
  • Spacecraft control
    — Gravity gradient (passive), active magnetic torqrods damping, solar tacking
    — Single- and dual-spin stabilization
    — Momentum Exchange (Momentum Biased)
    — 3-axis control: RWA, CMG, RCS, beacon closed-loop control
    — Disturbance rejection: thermal snap, fuel sloshing control
    — Comparison
  • Steering laws
  • Gyroless spacecraft control
  • Tools, GUI, examples
  • Lab exercise
  • References

Precision Payload Pointing


  • Payload control: spinning sensor, gimbaled antenna, and phased array
  • Four types of payload
  • Payload control design issues
    — Payload nonlinear dynamics modeling (friction) and control interactions
    — Control design for co-located and non-collocated “pole-zero flipping” flexible payload dynamics
    — Jitter analysis
    — Large space structure considerations
  • Tools, GUI, examples
  • Lab exercise
  • References

Design Case Studies and Special Topics

(Chiang and guest speakers to be announced)

  • End-to-end spacecraft design
  • Various design case studies
  • Special topics: fuel slosh and control interactions

For more information contact the Short Course Program Office:
shortcourses@uclaextension.edu | (310) 825-3344 | fax (310) 206-2815