Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Dale A. Lawrence

Second Advisor

William K. Wilkie

Third Advisor

Jay W. McMahon

Fourth Advisor

James D. Meiss

Fifth Advisor

Daniel J. Scheeres


Solar sails enable or enhance exploration of a variety of destinations both within and without the solar system. The heliogyro solar sail architecture divides the sail into blades spun about a central hub and centrifugally stiffened. The resulting structural mass savings can often double acceleration verses kite-type square sails of the same mass. Pitching the blades collectively and cyclically, similar to a helicopter, creates attitude control moments and vectors thrust. The principal hurdle preventing heliogyros' implementation is the uncertainty in their dynamics. This thesis investigates attitude, orbital and structural control using a combination of analytical studies and simulations. Furthermore, it quantifies the heliogyro's ability to create attitude control moments, change the thrust direction, and stably actuate blade pitch. This provides engineers a toolbox from which to estimate the heliogyro's performance and perform trades during preliminary mission design. It is shown that heliogyros can create an attitude control moment in any direction from any orientation. While their large angular momentum limits attitude slewing to only a few degrees per hour, cyclic blade pitching can slew the thrust vector within a few minutes. This approach is only 13% less efficient than slewing a square sail during Earth escape, so it does not offset the overall acceleration benefits of heliogyros. Lastly, a root pitch motor should be able to settle torsional disturbances within a few rotations and achieve thrust performance comparable to that of flat blades. This work found no significant dynamic hurdles for heliogyros, and it provides key insight into their practical capabilities and limitations for future mission designers.