Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Hanspeter Schaub

Second Advisor

Daniel Kubitschek

Third Advisor

Robert Leben


A primary source of spacecraft jitter is due to mass imbalances within momentum exchange devices (MEDs) used for fine pointing, such as reaction wheels (RWs) and variable-speed control moment gyroscopes (VSCMGs). Although these effects are often characterized through experimentation in order to validate pointing stability requirements, it is of interest to include jitter in a computer simulation of the spacecraft in the early stages of spacecraft development. An estimate of jitter amplitude may be found by modeling MED imbalance torques as external disturbance forces and torques on the spacecraft. In this case, MED mass imbalances are lumped into static and dynamic imbalance parameters, allowing jitter force and torque to be simply proportional to wheel speed squared. A physically realistic dynamic model may be obtained by defining mass imbalances in terms of a wheel center of mass location and inertia tensor. The fully-coupled dynamic model allows for momentum and energy validation of the system. This is often critical when modeling additional complex dynamical behavior such as flexible dynamics and fuel slosh. Furthermore, it is necessary to use the fully-coupled model in instances where the relative mass properties of the spacecraft with respect to the RWs cause the simplified jitter model to be inaccurate. This thesis presents a generalized approach to MED imbalance modeling of a rigid spacecraft hub with N RWs or VSCMGs. A discussion is included to convert from manufacturer specifications of RW imbalances to the parameters introduced within each model. Implementations of the fully-coupled RW and VSCMG models derived within this thesis are released open-source as part of the Basilisk astrodynamics software.