An Integrated Design Methodology for the Deployment of Constellations of Small Satellites

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A growing interest in constellations of small satellites has recently emerged due to the increasing capability of these platforms and their reduced time and cost of development. However, in the absence of dedicated launch services for these systems, alternative methods for the deployment of these constellations must be considered which can take advantage of the availability of secondary-payload launch opportunities. Furthermore, a means of exploring the effects and tradeoffs in corresponding system architectures is required. This paper presents a methodology to integrate the deployment of constellations of small satellites into the wider design process for these systems. Using a method of design-space exploration, enhanced understanding of the tradespace is supported, whilst identification of system designs for development is enabled by the application of an optimisation process. To demonstrate the method, a simplified analysis framework and a multiobjective genetic algorithm are implemented for three mission case-studies with differing application. The first two cases, modelled on existing constellations, indicate the benefits of design-space exploration, and possible savings which could be made in cost, system mass, or deployment time. The third case, based on a proposed Earth observation nanosatellite constellation, focuses on deployment following launch using a secondary payload opportunity and demonstrates the breadth of feasible solutions which may not be considered if only point-designs are generated by a priori analysis. These results indicate that the presented method can support the development of future constellations of small satellites by improving the knowledge of different deployment strategies available during the early design phases and through enhanced exploration and identification of promising design alternatives.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Aeronautical Journal
Early online date24 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019