Satellite formation flying requires precise control of relative positioning under external disturbances and parameter uncertainties. Since thrust magnitude error and misalignment are not negligible in the electric propulsion system, they should be considered in satellite formation flying to meet mission requirements. In this paper, an adaptive control approach combined with backstepping technique is developed by using Lyapunov control design approach for the relative position tracking problem of satellite formation flying in the presence of thrust misalignment uncertainty and disturbances. The proposed controller guarantees global asymptotic convergence for position and velocity tracking error to ensure desired performance during the satellite formation flying mission. (c) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.