Special Issue "Guidance, Navigation and Control Algorithms for Satellite Formation Flying"

A special issue of Aerospace (ISSN 2226-4310). This special issue belongs to the section "Astronautics & Space Science".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 29 February 2024 | Viewed by 695

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Gabriella Gaias
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Aerospace Science and Technology, Politecnico di Milano, 20133 Milan, Italy
Interests: development of AOCS/GNC algorithms; simulation systems; flight software for autonomous formation flying and proximity operation applications
Dr. Jean-Sébastien Ardaens
Guest Editor
ClearSpace SA, Rue de Lausanne 64, 1020 Renens, Switzerland
Interests: GNC; onboard autonomy; precise navigation; rendezvous; formation-flying

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce a new open access Special Issue of the MDPI journal Aerospace, titled “Guidance, Navigation and Control Algorithms for Satellite Formation Flying”.

Formation flying missions enable technological applications of scientific and societal relevance, where standard monolithic solutions fail. Distributed space systems, swarms, and fractionated systems are a key asset to build extended, flexible, and scalable space endeavours. Moreover, a significant number of current technological research efforts address multi-satellite missions devoted to in-orbit servicing and active debris removal activities.

The operation of satellites in proximity, with different levels of cooperation among them, demands the development of relative guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) systems, which entail all the functions that complement the standard orbit/attitude determination and control tasks of single-satellite missions. In addition, mission safety in the sense of collision avoidance among the spacecraft of the formation has to be ensured. Frontier research efforts on the development of relative GNC algorithms focus on improving navigation/control performances, increasing the level of autonomy and minimizing the computational load while ensuring robust and reliable approaches suitable for spaceborne implementation.

This Special Issue aims to collect contributions in a range of aspects related to GNC systems, spanning from relative navigation and the establishment and maintenance of the required relative configuration between the elements of a space distributed system, to collision avoidance monitoring and manoeuvring. Particular attention is devoted to algorithms’ development and verification. Potential applications include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Formation flying missions for Earth observation;
  • Formation flying missions for space observation;
  • In-orbit servicing missions;
  • In-orbit inspection and active debris removal missions;
  • Swarms missions;
  • Formation flying missions around small bodies.

Dr. Gabriella Gaias
Dr. Jean-Sébastien Ardaens
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Aerospace is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • relative navigation
  • relative orbit determination
  • spacecraft rendezvous
  • satellite formation flying
  • formation reconfiguration
  • active debris removal
  • autonomy
  • swarms
  • space distributed systems

Published Papers (1 paper)

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25 pages, 6820 KiB  
Autonomous Optimal Absolute Orbit Keeping through Formation Flying Techniques
Aerospace 2023, 10(11), 959; https://doi.org/10.3390/aerospace10110959 - 13 Nov 2023
Viewed by 521
In this paper, the problem of autonomous optimal absolute orbit keeping for a satellite mission in Low Earth Orbit using electric propulsion is considered. The main peculiarity of the approach is to support small satellite missions in which the platform is equipped with [...] Read more.
In this paper, the problem of autonomous optimal absolute orbit keeping for a satellite mission in Low Earth Orbit using electric propulsion is considered. The main peculiarity of the approach is to support small satellite missions in which the platform is equipped with a single thruster nozzle that provides acceleration on a single direction at a time. This constraint implies that an attitude maneuver is necessary before or during each thrusting arc to direct the nozzle into the desired direction. In this context, an attitude guidance algorithm specific for the orbit maneuver has been developed. A Model Predictive Control scheme is proposed, where the attitude kinematics are coupled with the orbital dynamics in order to obtain the optimal guidance profiles in terms of satellite state, reference attitude, and thrust magnitude. The proposed control scheme is developed exploiting formation flying techniques where the reference orbit is that of a virtual spacecraft that the main satellite is required to rendezvous with. In addition to the controller design, the closed-loop configuration is presented supported by numerical simulations. The efficacy of the proposed autonomous orbit-keeping approach is shown in several application scenarios. Full article
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