Review of reaction spheres for spacecraft attitude control

Linyu Zhu, Jian Guo*, Eberhard Gill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


With respect to spacecraft attitude control, reaction spheres are promising alternatives to conventional momentum exchange devices for the benefits brought by their 4. π rotation. Many design concepts of reaction spheres have been proposed in the past decades, however, developments of the driving unit and the bearing, as well as their combination remain great challenges. To facilitate research and push developments in this field, this paper provides a comprehensive review of reaction spheres. To some extent, an in-depth survey of multi-DOF (degree of freedom) spherical motors and possible bearings is provided, along with their advantages and weaknesses addressed. Some multi-DOF actuators for different applications, such as robotic joints, are investigated since they share many similar challenges and techniques with reaction spheres. The experimental performances of realized reaction spheres are listed and compared. Limits of current designs are identified and their causes are analyzed and discussed. Compared with existing summaries on multi-DOF actuators and some surveys done for specific reaction spheres' design, this paper provides the first thorough review on reaction spheres, considering approaches to excite and support the free 4. π rotation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67–86
JournalProgress in Aerospace Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Actuator
  • Bearings
  • Motors


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