Formation Flying Performance Measures for Earth Pointing Missions

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Virginia Tech

Clusters of low-performance spacecraft flying in formation may provide enhanced performance over single high-performance spacecraft. This is especially true for remote sensing missions where interferometry or stereographic imaging may provide higher resolution data. The configurations of such formations vary during an orbit due to orbital dynamics, and over longer time scales due to perturbations. Selection of a configuration should be based on overall performance of the formation. In this thesis, performance measures are developed and evaluated based on integration over one orbit. The measures involve the angular separation of spacecraft, the distance between spacecraft, and an area-based measure of the separation of the spacecraft. Numerical techniques are employed to evaluate the performance measures to determine optimal scenarios for two formations. Simplifying assumptions are made to allow a closed-form analytic solution and the results are compared to those obtained numerically. Finally, the sensitivity of the measures to linearized propagation techniques is investigated.

formation flying, Optimization, performance measures, constant shape formations