Satellite constellation/Design

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Design[edit | edit source]

Walker Constellation[edit | edit source]

There are a large number of constellations that may satisfy a particular mission. Usually constellations are designed so that the satellites have similar orbits, eccentricity and inclination so that any perturbations affect each satellite in approximately the same way. In this way, the geometry can be preserved without excessive station-keeping thereby reducing the fuel usage and hence increasing the life of the satellites. Another consideration is that the phasing of each satellite in an orbital plane maintains sufficient separation to avoid collisions or interference at orbit plane intersections. Circular orbits are popular, because then the satellite is at a constant altitude requiring a constant strength signal to communicate.

A class of circular orbit geometries that has become popular is the Walker Delta Pattern constellation. This has an associated notation to describe it which was proposed by John Walker.[1] His notation is:

i: t/p/f

where: i is the inclination; t is the total number of satellites; p is the number of equally spaced planes; and f is the relative spacing between satellites in adjacent planes. The change in true anomaly (in degrees) for equivalent satellites in neighbouring planes is equal to f*360/t.

For example, the Galileo Navigation system is a Walker Delta 56°:24/3/1 constellation. This means there are 24 satellites in 3 planes inclined at 56 degrees, spanning the 360 degrees around the equator. The "1" defines the phasing between the planes, and how they are spaced. The Walker Delta is also known as the Ballard rosette, after A. H. Ballard's similar earlier work.[2][3] Ballard's notation is (t,p,m) where m is a multiple of the fractional offset between planes.

Another popular constellation type is the near-polar Walker Star, which is used by Iridium. Here, the satellites are in near-polar circular orbits across approximately 180 degrees, travelling north on one side of the Earth, and south on the other. The active satellites in the full Iridium constellation form a Walker Star of 86.4°:66/6/2, i.e. the phasing repeats every two planes. Walker uses similar notation for stars and deltas, which can be confusing.

These sets of circular orbits at constant altitude are sometimes referred to as orbital shells.

Broadband[edit | edit source]

In 2015 Farooq Khan then the President of Samsung Research America published a research paper providing details how a large satellite broadband constellation can be designed.[4]

Learning Task[edit | edit source]

  • Explain, how a the design process incorporates the full life cyle a complete satellite constellation.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. J. G. Walker, Satellite constellations, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, vol. 37, pp. 559-571, 1984
  2. A. H. Ballard, Rosette Constellations of Earth Satellites, IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems, Vol 16 No. 5, Sep. 1980.
  3. J. G. Walker, Comments on "Rosette constellations of earth satellites", IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems, vol. 18 no. 4, pp. 723-724, November 1982.
  4. Khan, Farooq (9 August 2015). "Mobile Internet from the Heavens". arXiv:1508.02383 [cs.NI].