A Survey on Formation Control of Small Satellites

G-P Liu, Shijie Zhang

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This paper comprehensively reviews the state-of-the-art development in formation control of small satellites. Satellite formation flying, distributed satellite systems, and fractionated satellite formation are discussed first. Various formation control architectures and methods of small satellites are then introduced, including the leader-following method, the behavior-based method, the virtual structure method, the cyclic pursuit method, the artificial potential function method, the algebraic graph method, and the noncontact force method. Coordinative control of multiple small satellites is also reviewed, covering coordinative control of satellite formation, coordinative attitude control of satellite formation, and coordinative coupled attitude and orbit control of satellite formation. The achievements and development trends of the formation control of small satellites are considered and analyzed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the IEEE
Early online date26 Feb 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2018


  • Aerospace electronics
  • Coordinative control
  • formation control
  • Planetary orbits
  • satellite formation
  • Satellites
  • small satellites
  • Space technology
  • Space vehicles
  • Task analysis


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