The study is a preliminary mission analysis and design of a small satellite swarm. The concept of the mission is to probe altitudes between 200 km and 6000 km to study the structures and dynamics of the magnetic field aligned currents.
The mission lifetime is about 3 months. Aerodynamic drag at low altitudes is used for orbit and formation control. During the perigee passage, the satellite would decelerate due to drag, therefore, reducing its apogee. In addition, the attitude control of the spacecraft during the perigee passage could be used for formation control by changing its cross-sectional area.
The simulations indicated that an appropriate insertion orbit should be at the perigee of 168 km and an apogee of 6000km. Moreover, from the orbital decay simulations, it was found that by maintaining a constant ram-facing area of 0.1 m2, it is possible for the satellite to decay in 90 days.
The attitude simulations show that for at least one perigee passage at a perigee altitude of 168 km, the satellite is able to maintain its attitude and not tumble throughout the trajectory. In addition, investigation of the leader-follower satellite formation yielded that the relative translation of a circular orbit oscillates in all relative directions whereas in an elliptical orbit it only oscillates in the cross-track direction.
Furthermore, the simulation has also shown that the relative translation of a leader-follower formation with a elliptical reference orbit, would spiral out of the radial-cross-track plane.
Author: Tanapura, Noravidhya