Vitae of the owner/president

me_opt Dr. Mark E. Pittelkau is the founder and owner of Aerospace Control Systems LLC. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering at Tennessee Tech in 1981 and 1986 and his M.S. in electrical engineering at Virginia Tech in 1983, all concentrating in control systems. He was previously with the Applied Physics Laboratory, Orbital Sciences, CTA Space Systems (acquired by Orbital Sciences), and Swales Aerospace (→ ATK → Orbital Sciences → Northrop Grumman). His early career at the Naval Surface Warfare Center and FMC Defense Systems involved target tracking, gun fire control, and gun system calibration. Since 1990, Dr. Pittelkau has worked on several spacecraft attitude determination and control systems in all phases of design and operation, including software implementation and test. His theoretical knowledge and mathematical skills are balanced with more than 25 years of practical experience in engineering.

A hiatus was taken from 8/2016 to 8/2021 to pursue a full-time job developing algorithms for use in Space Situational Awareness (SSA), aka Space Domain Awareness (SDA). He developed algorithms for space object track correlation and track fusion, probabilistic threat prediction based on Bayesian inference, Low-Thrust Steering identification, and change detection based on rotation rate estimation from photometric data, and change detection based on lightcurve analysis.

Dr. Pittelkau is a leading expert in the development of algorithms for calibration of attitude sensors, including Redundant IMUs (RIMU), which have more than three sense axes. He developed the RADICAL RIMU Attitude Determination/Calibration Filter, which accurately estimates attitude and a full set of attitude sensor alignment and RIMU calibration parameters. RADICAL has successfully supported the design and operation of several spacecraft. Dr. Pittelkau is also an expert in attitude determination system design, analysis, and hardware selection. He is intimately familiar with many types of star trackers, gyros, and other attitude sensors. Perhaps more importantly, he has an intimate understanding of errors in the sensors, which is critical to system design and performance analysis.

Dr. Pittelkau led the development of the GOODS GPS-based orbit estimation software at CTA Space Systems (now Northrop-Grumman), which is a major improvement over the original GEODE software. GOODS is now a standard spacecraft software element at Northrop Grumman and is operating on several spacecraft.

Siince 1998, Dr. Pittelkau has pursued methods to rigorously define pointing and verify image motion performance requirements to replace the traditional and often ambiguous definitions jitter and stability. developed pointing performance metrics that are based directly on the point spread function, which is an important imaging performance metric, and he developed fast computational algorithms for evaluating the pointing error metrics.

He has developed and implemented attitude command algorithms for Earth scanning and imaging, maneuvering, and tracking; attitude control laws; and simulation and flight algorithms. He has also performed detailed control-structure interaction and stability analyses for several spacecraft, including SORCE, OrbView-4, TIMED, MESSENGER, and STEREO. He has applied robust control theory to analyzing the stability of the Pegasus autopilot, and performed a classical stability analysis of a modified Standard missile autopilot. He also developed a boost-phase target tracking filter based on the rocket equation and hypothesis testing to detect stage separation.

From 1999 until 2015, he was teaching for the Applied Technology Institute (ATI), including one day of the once-popular 5-day course Space Systems Intermediate Design (no longer offered) and a 3.5-day class on Attitude Determination and Control. He also taught on-site courses for ATI at NASA and Boeing on classical and modern control theory with an introduction to basic concepts in robust control. The Attitude Determination and Control course may resume in the near future, but two courses. A course on Pointing Performance Analysis and Image Motion Transfer Functions may be offered.

Dr. Pittelkau is an Associate Fellow of the AIAA and a Senior Member of the IEEE. He was a member of the AIAA Astrodynamics Technical Committee for several years, and a General co-Chairman of the 2009 Space Flight Mechanics Conference.

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My other interests include microelectronics (microcontrollers and electronic peripherals), bicycling, hiking, and guitar.