Adaptive Cruise Control

The automotive industry continues to incorporate advanced technology and control systems design into new vehicles. Features such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, autonomous park assist, and adaptive lights are becoming more common in the automotive market. These exciting technologies greatly increase vehicle safety!

Adaptive cruise controls measure the distance and speed of nearby vehicles and adjust the speed of the vehicle with the cruise control to maintain safe following distances. Typically a system will use a radar that measures range, range rate and azimuth to vehicles in its field of view.

A typical situation is shown below. The car with adaptive cruise control is traveling near three additional vehicles. Two cars have been tracked for awhile but a third is passing and plans to insert itself into the space between the tracking car and one of the tracked cars. How does the cruise control keep the three cars straight?


Every measurement has uncertainty. The following drawing shows the uncertainty ellipsoids for the three vehicles. As you can see they overlap so a measurement could be associated with more than one car.


The Princeton Satellite Systems Target Tracking Module for MATLAB implements track oriented Multiple Hypothesis Testing (MHT). MHT is a Bayesian method for reliably associating measurements with tracks. The system is shown below:


The system includes a powerful track pruning algorithm that eliminates the need for ad-hoc track pruning. Without track pruning the number of tracks maintained would grow exponentially. The system generates hypotheses that are collections of tracks that are consistent, that is the tracks do not share any measurements. Measurements are incorporated into tracks and tracks are propagated using Kalman Filters. The MHT system also can handle multiple sensors for automobiles with cameras and radar.

Check out what all our MATLAB toolboxes have to offer!
Core Control Toolbox
Aircraft Control Toolbox
CubeSat Toolbox
Spacecraft Control Toolbox

6U CubeSat to Mars

We’ve been working on Asteroid Prospector, a 6U CubeSat to explore Near Earth Objects, for the past two years. It is quite a challenge to pack all the hardware into a 6U frame. Here is our latest design:



The nadir face has both an Optical Navigation System camera and a JPL designed robot arm. The arm is used to grapple the asteroid and get samples. The camera is used both for interplanetary navigation and close maneuvering near the asteroid.

Our fuel load only allows for one way missions but could be increased for sample return missions by adding another xenon tank, making it more of a 12U CubeSat. With that in mind, we wondered if we could do a Mars orbital mission with our 6U. It turns out it is possible! We would start in a GPS orbit, carried there by one of the many GPS launches. The spacecraft would spiral out of Earth orbit and perform a Hohmann transfer to Mars. Even though we are using a low-thrust ion engine, the burn duration is a small fraction of the Hohmann ellipse time making a Hohmann transfer a good approximation. We then spiral into Mars orbit for the science mission as seen in a VisualCommander simulation.


The low cost of the 6U mission makes it possible to send several spacecraft to Mars, each with its own instrument. This has the added benefit of reducing program risk as the loss of one spacecraft would not end the mission. Many challenges remain, including making the electronics sufficiently radiation hard for the interplanetary and Mars orbit environments. The lifetime of the mechanical components, such as reaction wheels, must also be long enough to last for the duration of the mission.

We’ll keep you posted in future blogs on our progress! Stay tuned!

Space Rapid Transit – Landing Gear Design

Hello everyone, I am an MIT extern here at Princeton Satellite Systems through MIT’s Externship Program. Over the past three weeks, I have been able to play a part in and help out with a number of assignments. The most recent assignment is what I will be detailing in this post.

One of the projects PSS is working on is Space Rapid Transit, a two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle with horizontal takeoff (think space vehicle that can “launch” like an airplane).  I was given the task of designing the nose landing gear, and in particular figuring out what type of linear electric actuator should be used to handle the load of retracting the landing gear.  Here is a preliminary design drawing I sketched to conceptualize the task.


In order to find a solution, I first needed to make a few design assumptions.  The first assumption was that the landing gear would retract toward the nose (which is a reasonable assumption because it allows more space behind the landing gear).  Next, I chose to model the retraction under the assumption that the vehicle is undergoing a 2-g turn.  I then selected the strut and tire sizes and found the maximum speed and altitude at which operation of the landing gear is allowed, using the specifications of the Airbus A320 because of its similar takeoff mass.  I now had enough information to approximate the force on the linear actuator.  For this I made a simplified sketch, drawing the side and top view of the landing gear as it undergoes retraction.


Using the side view in the diagram above, I simplified the landing gear retraction into a torque balance problem, where all torques were evaluated about the fixed pivot.  I found the time it takes to retract the landing gear to be around 10 seconds and estimated a full sweep angle of the landing gear (from fully extended to fully retracted) to be 90 degrees.  Assuming constant angular acceleration, I was able to calculate this angular acceleration using the time and angle noted above.  I then calculated the distance of the center of mass of the wheel and strut configuration from the pivot as well as the moment of inertia.  After this I computed the drag force and gravitational force (from the 2-g turn) on the strut and wheels and computed how much torque each force would apply about the pivot.  Since the angular acceleration was so small that the resultant torque was negligible, the problem became a balance of the torque applied by the actuator with the torques resulting from air flow and the 2-g turn.

With this new found torque required from the actuator, I searched for linear electric actuators that could supply the force and stroke length.  The stroke length was approximated as the distance of the applied actuator force from the pivot.  As a result, I selected a Size 5 Moog Standard Linear Electric Actuator because it fit the design requirements.


Europa Report

Europa Report is a movie about a human mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter, to explore the moon for signs of life. Europa has an oxygen atmosphere and a surface composed of water ice that has led to the hypothesis that there is an ocean under the ice.

Europa Report does a great job of being scientifically accurate. The spacecraft shown in the movie addresses the major issues that travelers would experience on a voyage to Jupiter. The crew section of the spacecraft is spun for artificial gravity and accommodations are made to deal with the high radiation environment around Jupiter.

Our Spacecraft Control Toolbox can be used to design the spacecraft and simulate every phase from Earth Orbit to Europa landing. We have a script for a powered Europa landing. Here are the results!


For more information about how you can design your space missions visit our Spacecraft Control Toolbox page!

Princeton Satellite Systems at the Princeton University Inventors Receptions

Gary Pajer and Mike Paluszek attended the

Princeton University Inventors Showcase:


The event, held Thursday, Nov. 21, at Chancellor Green Rotunda on the Princeton University campus, offered opportunities for University inventors to present their discoveries and meet leaders from industry and the venture capital community.

IR Imaging with the Spacecraft Control Toolbox

Many spacecraft are incorporating cameras, both visible and IR, to image other nearby objects. These may be other satellites or space debris. This blog entry shows how you can simulate imaging with the Spacecraft Control Toolbox.

In this simulation a target 1U CubeSat is illuminated by several sources of radiant flux and imaged by a camera located on a chase vehicle. The CubeSat panels have different optical and thermal properties. An exploded view is shown below. The surface properties are for radiators (black), solar panels (blue) and gold foil (yellow).


The target is located in a circular orbit and the chase vehicle is in a similar but slightly eccentric orbit. A camera is mounted on the chase vehicle. The chase vehicle keeps its camera pointed at the target. Solar radiation, earth radiation, and earth albedo illuminate the target. The motion of the two vehicles is simulated for one revolution. The target spacecraft remains between approximately 75 m and 150 m from the chase vehicle.


As the target and chase vehicle move in their respective orbits, the change in temperature of the target CubeSat is simulated. Each of the 6 panels are composed of two triangles. The temperatures of the panels vary based on the thermal properties of each face and the orientation of the spacecraft. The orientation affects the incoming flux for each particular face.


Solar radiation is the dominant source over the course of the simulation but earth radiation and earth albedo also effect the total flux. The solar radiation, plotted in dark blue, clearly shows the times when the earth is blocking the line of sight from the spacecraft to the sun.


A photon detector model is assumed for the IR imaging device. The following flow chart describes the imager model.


The initial output observed by the imager is shown below. It should be noted that for the particular orbit and orientation initial conditions specified, the z component of the relative position is always equal to zero. This means that only the x and y panels of the cube will be visible throughout the simulation. It is possible to specify different initial conditions that would result in a z relative position, and in this case, up to three faces of the cube can be detected.


We have created a video that displays the imager results as a sequence.


DFD at the IEPC

Explosions. Orbits. Stuff hurtling through space at high speed. At the George Washington University campus last week, eyes young and old were trained on the screen, witnessing an amazing story of what can happen in space.

And no, it was not “Gravity”. Nothing against Ms. Bullock or Mr. Clooney, but the 33rd International Electric Propulsion Conference was the place to be last week. The IEPC showcased some fascinating new developments in electric propulsion, including some very promising work on plasma and fusion engines. MSNW gave a great overview of their Fusion Driven Rocket, Ad Astra showed off impressive experimental results of their VASIMR engine, and the University of Surrey presented a novel quad confinement thruster, to name a few.

We were happy to present our paper on the Direct Fusion Drive Rocket for Asteroid Deflection.

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SCT Seminar – Sheffield UK

Yosef and Amanda are giving a seminar on our Spacecraft Control Toolbox in Sheffield, England on October 1, 2013. This event has been arranged through our UK distributors, MeadoTech Ltd. A big thank you goes out to Dr. Mohamed Mahmoud and Ruth Jenkinson!

Check out what our MATLAB toolboxes have to offer!
Core Control Toolbox
Aircraft Control Toolbox
CubeSat Toolbox
Spacecraft Control Toolbox

Kepler Telescope Reorientation Maneuver

The Kepler telescope has suffered the loss of two reaction wheels. This means that it cannot use the wheels to control orientation about all three axes.

One option is to use thrusters and reaction wheels at the same time as actuators. Princeton Satellite Systems Core GN&C Bundle does just that.

Aero/Astro vehicle control products.

We’ve simulated the system for the Kepler spacecraft


You can see a movie of a reorientation here:

Kepler Mixed Actuator Reorientation.