Let’s pay attention to satellites. Earth’s gravity field is powerful, its a lumpy mass. On top of that, the pull of the sun and moon, and pressure from solar radiation are also an impediment for keeping a satellite in space. We do need satellites in space to monitor Earth; however, how many have to orbit to cover each point of our planet plus maintain continuous 24/7?
Well, to answer the above question, expert John E. Draim has delivered a solution: a four-satellite constellation. Unfortunately, his idea is very costing. However, the right combination of factors to make a four-satellite constellation possible has been discovered by a National Science Foundation-sponsored collaboration led by Patrick Reed, the Joseph C. Ford Professor of Engineering at Cornell University.
What is a four-satellite constellation?
This four-satellite constellation could drive advances in telecommunication, navigation, and remote sensing. These researchers have cleverly accomplished this by making the forces that ordinarily degrade satellites instead of work in their favor.
“One of the interesting questions we had was, can we actually transform those forces? Instead of degrading the system, can we actually flip it such that the constellation is harvesting energy from those forces and using them to actively control itself?” Reed said.
Reed also collaborated with researchers from The Aerospace Corporation for this project. “We leveraged Aerospace’s constellation design expertise with Cornell’s leadership in intelligent search analytics and discovered an operationally feasible alternative to the Draim constellation design,” said Singh, systems director for The Aerospace Corporation’s Future Architectures department. “These constellation designs may provide substantive advantages to mission planners for concepts out at geostationary orbits and beyond.”
Benefits of the four-satellite constellation
“Even one satellite can cost hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, depending on what sensors are on it and what its purpose is. So having a new platform that you can use across the existing and emerging missions is pretty neat,” Reed said.
“There’s a lot of potential for remote sensing, telecommunication, navigation, high-bandwidth sensing and feedback around the space, and that’s evolving very, very quickly. There are likely all sorts of applications that might benefit from a long-lived, self-adapting satellite constellation with near-global coverage.”