Brand New Free SCT Textbook Companion App for MATLAB

We are happy to announce the release of our free Textbook Companion App for MATLAB (2012b or later).  Based on four Chapter 2 walk through tutorials, the goal is to design a geostationary spacecraft, maintaining an exact orbital position, delivering a -126 dB in the Ku band, and 7 year lifetime.


The GUI allows us to look at the results of various gravity models, summing various types of disturbances caused by the sun-angle, a basic geo-synchronous orbit simulation, and then a full simulation that incorporates the orbit, disturbances, and Control and Link parameters. app_results

The app is available on the textbook support page:


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!

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.


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

PSS MATLAB Toolbox Tutorial Videos

Over the summer we worked on developing some videos to help customers get started using our MATLAB products. Our MIT intern, James Slonaker, did a fabulous job! Come check out our Toolbox Tutorial Videos on our YouTube Channel!

If you have any feedback or suggestions for future content, please contact us at

New PSS MATLAB Product – Core Control Toolbox

We have just released our new MATLAB product – the Core Control Toolbox (CCT). We created the Core Control Toolbox as a base product for those customers who may have interests outside of aircraft and spacecraft modeling and simulation. It features many of the general purpose functions found in our Spacecraft Control Toolbox. Like all our Toolbox products, CCT comes with complete source code. Users can view and modify any function in the toolbox to suit their particular needs. We’ve included a number of our filtering, graphics, mathematics, quaternion, robotics, and other general purpose functions.

Below one of our robotics functions is featured! The Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm (SCARA) is used in many industrial applications requiring assembly in a plane, like manufacturing a PC board.

The SCARA movie shows a SCARA robot following a straight line trajectory. The trajectory is computed by a dedicated SCARA inverse kinematics routine.

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

Next Stop….Enceladus!

In October of 1997, the Cassini spacecraft launched on a mission to explore the depths of the Saturnian system. After traveling over 3.5 billion km, the orbiter set out to discover more about the composition and features of Saturn, study its rings and satellites, and investigate the magnetic environment. Flash forward to 2013, Cassini is in the midst of it’s second extended mission! Over the past decade, we have received countless images from this amazing spacecraft including shots of the spectacular icy plume geysers from the Saturnian moon Enceladus. 
Image Source: NASA

This tiny moon is creating a LOT of excitement as it is thought to have the greatest potential for extraterrestrial life in our Solar System. A robotic lander may explore Enceladus in the future.

Using our Spacecraft Control Toolbox (SCT), we have created a simulation of the soft landing of a small exploratory craft. Starting in a 5 km circular Enceladus equatorial orbit, the lander tracks a minimum time descent profile. An altimeter monitors the local vertical distance the spacecraft needs to travel before touchdown, and a three axis PID controller is used to orient the spacecraft so that the thrusters align with the prescribed thrust direction.

When the spacecraft approaches the surface of Enceladus, we switch to a landing mode in which the vehicle assumes a vertical landing orientation and thrust is applied in the local vertical direction, proportional to the distance to touchdown. This is all done using functions readily available in SCT! Next stop: Enceladus! Who’s on board?

Check out what our MATLAB toolboxes have to offer!

New Attitude Profiling Functions and Visualization in SCT v11

Creating attitude profiles just got easier! Satellites typically have multiple antennas and sensors that must be pointed in different directions at various times. We often want to point a sensor payload or a directional antenna at a certain location on Earth, while keeping the solar panels aligned with the sun and aiming the star camera away from bright areas of the sky. The group of new attitude profile functions in SCT v11 allow high-level directives to be defined, and facilitate the automatic computation of an attitude profile that meets the target alignment objectives while satisfying all pointing constraints. Detailed time-history plots and 3D visualization with playback enable you to explore and understand the attitude profile in depth.

The 2D plot below shows a time history of the rotation angle around the primary body axis. The primary body axis is aligned with the primary target. We can then rotate about this axis to align a secondary body axis as closely as possible with a secondary target. At the same, we have one or more pointing constraints which impose time-varying bounds on the rotation angle. The dark gray regions illustrate how these bounds change over time.


The 3D view below shows the orbital path (cyan) of the satellite about the Earth, with a CAD model at the current orbit location in the center of the figure. The sun vector is shown (yellow) and the Earth lighting is based on the sun location. The primary alignment vector (green) is directed towards a coordinate on the Earth, and the secondary alignment is pointed in the orbit-normal direction. Constraint directions are shown in red with angular sweeps to show their size. The sensor cone is a star camera that has to keep the sun, Earth and moon out of its field of view.


Getting Started with the CubeSat Toolbox

The CubeSat toolbox is a set of MATLAB functions, including a subset of the Spacecraft Control Toolbox, designed to facilitate CubeSat design. The best place to start is to run the example scripts in CubeSat/Demos, including AttitudeProfileDemo, OrbitAndSensorConeAnimation, CubeSatSimulation, and TwoSpacecraftOrbitSimulation.

Contact us for your free demo today!