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 Marshall


Electrostatic modeling of spacecraft has wide-reaching applications such as detumbling space debris in the Geosynchronous Earth Orbit regime before docking, servicing and tugging space debris to graveyard orbits, and Lorentz augmented orbits. The viability of electrostatic actuation control applications relies on faster-than-realtime characterization of the electrostatic interaction. The Volume Multi-Sphere Method (VMSM) seeks the optimal placement and radii of a small number of equipotential spheres to accurately model the electrostatic force and torque on a conducting space object. Current VMSM models tuned using force and torque comparisons with commercially available finite element software are subject to the modeled probe size and numerical errors of the software. This work first investigates fitting of VMSM models to Surface-MSM (SMSM) generated electrical field data, removing modeling dependence on probe geometry while significantly increasing performance and speed. A proposed electric field matching cost function is compared to a force and torque cost function, the inclusion of a self-capacitance constraint is explored and 4 degree-of-freedom VMSM models generated using electric field matching are investigated. The resulting E-field based VMSM development framework is illustrated on a box-shaped hub with a single solar panel, and convergence properties of select models are qualitatively analyzed. Despite the complex non-symmetric spacecraft geometry, elegantly simple 2-sphere VMSM solutions provide force and torque fits within a few percent.