This paper proposes a new approach of using differentials in aerodynamic drag in combination with thrusters to control satellite formation flying in low Earth orbits. Parameterized output regulation theory for formation-flying missions with combined control action is developed based on the Schweighart–Sedwick relative dynamics equations. The theory is implemented to precisely track the different trajectories of reference relative motion and eliminates the effects of the J2 perturbations. The parametric Lyapunov algebraic equation is proposed to ensure the stability of the linear relative model subject to saturated inputs. The main goal of this study is to approve the viability of using the differentials in aerodynamic drag to precisely control different formation-flying missions. Numerical simulations using a high-fidelity relative dynamics model and a high-precision orbit propagator are implemented to validate and analyze the performance of the proposed control algorithm in comparison with the linear quadratic regulator algorithm based on actual satellite models.
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