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1 The Clohessy Wiltshire Model

The relative motion of a chase spacecraft with respect to a target spacecraft

that is in a circular orbit about a central body, considered a point mass, can be
described by the CW equations of motion
Ä = 3n2 x + 2ny_
yÄ = ¡2nx_
zÄ = ¡n2 z
where the x-axis is along the radius vector of the target spacecraft, the z-axis
is along the angular momentum vector of the target spacecraft, and the y-axis
completes the right handed system. With this de…nition, the central body
is towards the negative x direction and the y-axis points along the velocity
vector of the target spacecraft. Motion along y-axis is considered ‘along-track’,
and motion along the positive and negative z-axis is considered ‘out-of-plane’
These equations have a closed form solution given by
sin nt 2
x(t) = (4 ¡ 3 cos nt)x0 + x_ 0 + (1 ¡ cos nt)y_0
n n
2 4 sin nt ¡ 3nt
y(t) = 6(sin nt ¡ nt)x0 + y0 ¡ (1 ¡ cos nt)x_ 0 + y_ 0
n n
z(t) = z0 cos nt + sin nt
where r
and at is the semi-major axis of the target vehicle’s orbit.
The velocities are then can be computed by taking the …rst time derivative
of the position components.
If a state vector is de…ned as
0 1
µ ¶ B y C
±r B z C
±s = =BB
±v B x_ C
@ y_ A
The solution of the system is given by
0 1 0 1 2
10 1
x(t) 4 ¡ 3 cos nt 0 0 n sin nt n (1 ¡ cos nt) 0 x0
B y(t) C B 6(sin nt ¡ nt) 1 2 1 CB C
B C B 0 ¡ n (1 ¡ cos nt) n (4 sin nt ¡ 3nt) 0 CB y0 C
B z(t) C B 1 CB C
B C=B 0 0 cos nt 0 0 n sin nt CB z0 C
B x(t)
_ C B 3n sin nt 0 0 cos nt 2 sin nt 0 CB x_ 0 C
@ y(t)
_ A @ ¡6n(1 ¡ cos nt) 0 0 ¡2 sin nt 4 cos nt ¡ 3 0 A@ y_0 A
_ 0 0 ¡n sin nt 0 0 cos nt z_0

The propagation matrix premultiplying the initial condition vector is also re-
ferred to as the state transition matrix for the CW equations. This matrix is
labeled as ©(t), and is a time varying. The system can be partitined as
µ ¶ µ ¶µ ¶
±r(t) M(t) N(t) ±r0
±v(t) S(t) T(t) ±v0

So that the position and velocities are given as

±r(t) = M(t)±r0 + N(t)±v0

±v(t) = S(t)±r0 + T(t)±v0

In the text (Wiesel, Space‡ight Dynamics), the variables are related to the ones
shown as

à = nt
±r = x
r0 ±µ = y
±z = z
©rr = M
©rv = N
©vr = S
©vv = T