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The attitude tracking control problem of a rigid spacecraft with external disturbances and an uncertain inertia matrix is addressed using the adaptive control method. The adaptive control laws proposed in this paper are optimal with respect to a family of cost functionals. This is achieved by the inverse optimality approach, without solving the associated Hamilton-Jacobi-Isaacs partial differential (HJIPD) equation directly. The design of the optimal adaptive controllers is separated into two stages by means of integrator backstepping, and a control Lyapunov argument is constructed to show that the inverse optimal adaptive controllers achieve H∞ disturbance attenuation with respect to external disturbances and global asymptotic convergence of tracking errors to zero for disturbances with bounded energy. The convergence of adaptive parameters is also analyzed in terms of invariant manifold. Numerical simulations illustrate the performance of the proposed control algorithms.