Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Hanspeter Schaub

Second Advisor

Daniel Kubitschek

Third Advisor

Jay McMahon


Solar radiation pressure (SRP), the force imparted on a spacecraft due to impinging solar photons, becomes a dominant dynamic perturbation for both interplanetary and above 1000 km Earth orbit altitude spacecraft missions. This thesis presents a method for the fast computation of spacecraft force and torque due to SRP considering a geometrically complex spacecraft model. The method uses the highly parallel execution capabilities of commodity Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and the Open Graphics Library (OpenGL) vector graphics software library to render a Computer Aided Design (CAD) generated spacecraft model on the GPU. The SRP forces and torques are resolved per model facet in the custom-developed render pipeline. Using common commercial and open-source 3D mesh modeling tools the material properties are encoded with the CAD model to provide realistic specular, diffuse and absorption surface optical properties. A first order validation is carried out by comparing the method's force result to that provided by the analytic cannonball SRP model. Validation of more complex spacecraft geometry is achieved by comparison of the OpenGL method's computed force value with the force value computed from flight data for the same spacecraft. The method is successfully implemented as a modular component of the Autonomous Vehicle Systems Laboratory's (AVS Lab) spacecraft simulation framework to demonstrate the methods faster than real time online simulation capability. Finally the OpenGL method's online simulation capability is used to demonstrate the methods rapid simulation capability in aid of spacecraft maneuver design.