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Launch vehicles: Attitude Dynamics &


Dr. A. Pechev (

Thrust vector control

Attitude control
Stabilising the pitch motion

Launch Vehicles Guidance Navigation and Control

The motion of a rigid body in space is specied by two sets of parameters:

1) position and velocity of the center of mass (six state variables plus rate of
change of mass)

2) attitude and attitude motion (six more state variables)

Position and velocity describe the translational motion of the center of the mass
of the launch vehicle with respect to an inertial reference frame. In the previous
lectures we derived the equations describing this motion.

The attitude and the attitude motion describe the orientation of the rocket in
space. This is the subject of this lecture.

Motion of Center of Mass in Polar coordinates

v̇c = − ksin(γ)
r 2 − D
m + 1
m T cos(ϕ), D = 1
2 Cd Aρvc

γ̇ = − kcos(γ)
vc r 2 + L
vc m + vc cos(γ)
r + 1
vc m T sin(ϕ)

ν̇ = vc cos(γ)

ṙ ≡ ḣ = vcsin(γ)
ṁ = − ITsp

Inertial Motion in body coordinates

vx vy T cos(φ)
v˙x = − r + m0 −ṁt
vy µ T sin(φ)
v˙y =r − r 2 + m0 −ṁt
ṙ = vy
ẋ = vx

Launch Vehicle  Thrust Vector Control

For attitude control we need to manipulate the direction of the thrust (Thrust
Vector Control, TVC). This is possible either by:

a) having three or four motors that can throttled to produce dierential thrust

b) having capabilities to gimbal the motors

In the gure above

Tx = (T1 − T3)l
Tz = (T2 − T4)l

 
(T1 − T3)l
T = R2(ϕ)  0 
(T2 − T4)l

R2(ϕ) is the rotation matrix about the longitudinal axis. For a non-spinning
rocket, ϕ is maintained zero.

Thrust Vector Control: gimbaling
Gimbaling the booster provides another mechanism for determining the direction
of the thrust. Saturn V, for example, has ve motors, where the four outer motors
can be gimbaled by separate hydraulic actuators to get thrust components normal
to the longitudinal axis. All three degrees of freedom, pitch (θ), yaw (ψ) and
roll (ϕ), can be controlled by gimbaling the motors. Saturn V is aerodynamically

The Space Shuttle's Solid Rocket Booster also has mechanisms that allow gim-
baling the nozzle for thrust vector control.

Saturn V: Engine congurations

Launch vehicle  measurements
Inertial Stabilised Platform: a device used for measuring acceleration and attitude
of launch vehicles.

Saturn V: measurements

ST-124 consists of:

• three gimbal mechanisms attached on gas bearings with servo motors and
resolvers (encoders).

• three integrating accelerometers for measuring the motion of the vehicle for
the purpose of the guidance.

• three-axis gyros for measuring attitude rates and angles; Angles are fed back
through control loops to the servo motors for maintaining zero attitude error.
The accumulated in the gimbal angles correspond to the attitude of the vehicle.

Launch vehicle  Center of Mass and Pressure

Bending Modes

Bending Modes

Eects of wind
One of the most important tasks of the ght system design of a launch vehicle is
to reduce the aerodynamic lateral loads during atmospheric ght.

Launch vehicle  Attitude

In the gure:
γ is the ight path (from local horizon to velocity)
α is the angle of attack (from local horizon to roll axis)
θ = γ + α is the rocket's pitch angle
All discussions below consider the pitch motion; The results however apply to yaw
Attitude Dynamics/Kinematics

The Euler's Equations
Euler's equations is the equivalent of Newton's second law of motion for rotation
about the center of mass
dt =T
where T is the sum of all external torques. Remember this is a vector equation,
i.e. h = hxi + hy j + hz k and T = Txi + Ty j + Tz k
This representation is in an inertial frame. Using the fact that in body-xed frame
(b) rotating with an angular velocity ω
(i) (b)
dh dh
dt = dt +ω×h
Euler's equation becomes
dt +ω×h=T
or using the fact that (h = Iω )
I dω
dt + ω × Iω = T, or equivalently Iω̇ + ω × Iω = T

The Euler's Equations
Using principal axes,
 
I1 0 0
I =  0 I2 0 
0 0 I3
we can reduce
Iω̇ + ω × Iω = T

to a set of three scalar equations

I1ω̇x + (I3 − I2)ωy ωz = Tx
I2ω̇y + (I1 − I3)ωxωz = Ty
I3ω̇z + (I2 − I1)ωxωy = Tz

T = Txi + Ty j + Tz k above is the sum of the control torque (from actuators)

and all disturbance torques.
For small angles
θ̇ = ωx
φ̇ = ωy
ψ̇ = ωz
For small angles and small angular velocities
θ̈ = I12 Tx
φ̈ = I11 Ty
ψ̈ = I13 Tz

Launch vehicle  Pitch dynamics
For this description we can write the rotational equation of motion about center
of mass
I θ̈ = −T l1sinδ + N l2

where l1and l2 as distance between the center of mass and thrust/center of

pressure (as in gure)
I is the pitch moment of inertia,

δ is the gimbal angle (angle from roll axis to rocket thrust T )

N = 1/2CLAρvc2cos(α) is the normal aerodynamic force.

How to use this equation?

Launch vehicle  Attitude
For constant turn-over maneuver, a constant pitch angle is maintained, i.e.
θ̇ = const. Thus θ̈ = 0 and from pitch equation of motion

0 = −T l1sinδ + N l2

we can calculate the gimbal angle that is required to maintain this constant pitch,
turn-over maneuver.
N l2
δ = sin−1 T l1

In this equation, the aerodynamic force N , the thrust T , and l1,2 are functions
of time and their values have to be constantly updated during the maneuver in
order to calculate the gimbal oset δ .

Control of pitch motion
Start with
I θ̈ = −T l1sinδ + N l2

For controller design we set N = 0 (The eect of N = 0 is later evaluated by

studying the feedback system). This reduces the dynamic equation to
I θ̈ = −T l1sinδ

Assigning a state vector x = [θ, θ̇] we can write the linear state-space equation
(with the assumption that sin(δ) ≈ δ )
ẋ = Ax + Bu

0 1 0
A= ,B =
0 0 −l1T /I

Control of pitch motion  analysis of open-loop
To analyse the open-loop response, we calculate the poles of the system (eigen-
values of A)
1) Construct the characteristic equation
s 0 0 1
p(s) = det(sI − A) = det − =
0 s 0 0
s −1
= det = s2
0 s
This gives two poles at the origin, i.e. s1 = s2 = 0.
Since the poles are not in the left-hand side of the s-plane, the system is unstable
and requires feedback control.

Pole placement design
Given the state-space model of the system
ẋ = Ax + Bu

The state-feedback controller has the form

u = −Kx

The closed-loop system then becomes

ẋ = Ax + B(−Kx) = (A − BK)x

The stability of this closed-loop system is determined from the location of the
closed-loop poles or the eigenvalues of (A − BK). The closed-loop poles are the
solution to the following characteristic equation
p(s) = det(sI − (A − BK)) = 0, where s = σ + jω is the complex frequency
(Laplace variable).
For the design we specify a given desired closed-loop pole locations, i.e. we give
p̃ = sn + a1s(n−1) + a2s(n−2) + ... + an, where a1, a2,... are known!

We then nd the closed-loop gains by comparing

p(s) = p(s)

collecting equal in power terms coecients and solving for unknown controller

Pole placement design for pitch motion
0 1 0
Start with ẋ = Ax + Bu with A = ,B =
0 0 −1
For given
p̃ = (s − (−2 − j2))(s − (−2 + j2)) = s2 + 4s + 8

K = [k1, k2], the closed-loop characteristic equation is
s 0 0 1
p(s) = det(sI − (A − BK)) = det( − ( −
  0 s 0 0
[k1k2])) = s2 − k2s − k1

Comparing p(s) with p̃(s) we calculate

k1 = −8 and k2 = −4.

Bending Modes

Modelling exibility

For modelling exibility in the rocket, one approach (for linear design) is to
consider that the rigid body is constructed by a series of rigid bodies coupled by
spring/damper links. A mass-damper system can be modelled by a second-order
transfer function
F Mi(s) =
s2 + 2ζωi + ωi2

where ki is the modal gain, ζ is the damping coecient and ωi is the i-th exible
mode frequency.

Modelling exibility

For Saturn V we have approx. ω = 2π, 3.5π, 6π ). Typically, ζ << 1.

Considering transfer-function representation, the overall model transforms to

−T l1 1 X ki
θ(s) = + 2 + 2ζω + ω 2
I s2 i
s i i

The design of the controller can be performed using the simple model (double
integrator), but the analysis must be done for the full-order model.

Depending on the location of the exible modes with respect to the control-system
bandwidth, we can experience quite dierent behaviour.
Modelling slosh

Modelling slosh motions is a challenging problem. The model would be highly

nonlinear and dependent on tank geometry, construction, etc. For the purpose of
the control system design (as a part of the Thrust Vector Control task), we can
consider represent the motion of the liquid using a single slosh-pendulum.

Modelling slosh
By modelling the coupled system, rigid body plus the pendulum, it can be
identied that the overall closed-loop model (pitch axis) is
−T l1 1 (s +
θ(s) = δ
I s2 (s2 + ωp2)

where the zero and the pole of the slosh mode depend on the parameters of the
tank, the mass, etc
ωp2 = ωs2 1 m
+m + mb(b+l
mb mb(b+l )
ωz2 = ωp2 − ωs2 l0 m0 + I

ωs2 = T /(m + m0)l

The pole-zero separation determines the magnitude of the slosh contribution. If

the slosh pendulum is pivoted below the centre of the mass of the rocket, the
interaction between the rigid body and the slosh mode is stable (the zero has a
lower frequency component than the pole).
Control of pitch motion
1. How is the inertial acceleration related to the body acceleration?
2. How many state variables are used to describe the attitude of the vehicle?
3. How are the inertial accelerations measured in a ying launch vehicle?
4. What principles can be used to manipulate the direction of the thrust ?
5. What is the signicance of the location of the Centre Of Pressure in respect to
the Centre of Mass?
6. How is lift related to the angle of attack?
7. Use the diagram on p. 15 to construct the equation describing the motion
about x (pitch, θ)
8. Design a control system for the problem dened in (7) to deliver stable motion
with settling time around 1 second.