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Workshop: Deployable Decision Making in Embodied Systems (DDM)

Deep Reinforcement Learning Policies for Underactuated Satellite Attitude Control

Matteo El Hariry


Autonomy is a key challenge for future space exploration endeavours. Deep Reinforcement Learning holds the promises for developing agents able to learn complex behaviours simply by interacting with their environment. This paper investigates the use of Reinforcement Learning for the satellite attitude control problem, namely the angular reorientation of a spacecraft with respect to an inertial frame of reference. In the proposed approach, a set of control policies are implemented as neural networks trained with a custom version of the Proximal Policy Optimization algorithm to maneuver a small satellite from a random starting angle to a given pointing target. In particular, we address the problem for two working conditions: the nominal case, in which all the actuators (a set of 3 reaction wheels) are working properly, and the underactuated case, where an actuator failure is simulated randomly along with one of the axes. We show that the agents learn to effectively perform large-angle slew maneuvers with fast convergence and industry-standard pointing accuracy. Furthermore, we test the proposed method on representative hardware, showing that by taking adequate measures controllers trained in simulation can perform well in real systems.

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