The dynamics of deployment and observation of a rigid body spacecraft system in the linear and non-linear two-body problem
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Modern space situational awareness entails the detection, tracking, identification, and characterization of resident space objects. Characterization is typically accomplished through the use of ground and space based sensors that are able to identify some specific physical feature, monitor unique dynamical behaviors, or deduce some information about the material properties of the object. The present investigation considers the characterizaiton aspects of situational awareness from the perspective of a close-proximity formation reconnaissance mission. The present study explores both relative translational and relative rotational motion for deployment of a spacecraft and observation of a resident space object. This investigation is motivated by specific situations in which characterization with ground or fixed space based sensors is insufficient. Instead, one or more vehicles are deployed in the vicinity of the object of interest. These could be, for instance, nano-satellites with imaging sensors. Nano-satellites offer a low-cost and effective technological platform, which makes consideration of the proposed scenario more feasible. Although the motivating application is rooted in space situational awareness, the techniques explored are generally applicable to flight in the vicinity of asteroids, and both cooperative vs. non-cooperative resident space objects. The investigation is initially focused on identifying the key features of the relative dynamics that are relevant to space situational awareness applications. Subsequently, effective spacecraft control techniques are considered to achieve the reconnaissance goals.